Sun, rain, better temperatures and gardens are off to a great start! If you are growing your own garden in a container or the backyard there are additional benefits beyond the actual produce. Being able to “dig in the dirt” is a great way to let go of stress in your life. Whether you are weeding, or turning the soil it has a way of releasing the tension while providing exercise at the same time. As you walk, bend, lift, pull, and carry items to and from the garden, there’s exercise for both large and small muscles and it’s a great time to spend with other family members away from any distractions. If you have children, the garden can be a great classroom. They can look for insects, footprints from other animals, measure and graph the rain, sun or plant growth from week to week. If you have picky eaters in the house, letting them identify some fun things to plant may help with trying a few new foods. If you start on a small scale think about maybe a pizza garden where you just grow the tomatoes, peppers, onions, basil and oregano? Or maybe just an herb garden on the windowsill where they can clip the herbs to add to dinner? It’s easy to tie many books into gardening, just ask at the library and they will be happy to help guide you in the right direction.
As you begin to plan for the items as they mature, think about what your family really likes before you preserve them. Do they like canned beans and frozen corn? If you aren’t sure what they like, then try in smaller quantities to preserve items by freezing and canning following the USDA guidelines.
Now is the time to gather your equipment and make sure it’s in good working condition, and find any new recipes that you want to try. The Ball Blue book is a great resource with reliable recipes. On the web the National Center for Home Food Preservation at the University of Georgia has a wonderful collection of both common and unique recipes (www.NCHFP.uga.edu) and posts answers to current questions that you might have. If you are in need of a more comprehensive canning guide, I have a limited quantity of the USDA Guides here in the office available for sale ($10.00 + tax).
Remember that all fruits and pickled items can be processed in a water bath while any vegetables, meats or combinations must be processed in a pressure canner. If you have a weighted gauge canner, unless you are having problems it doesn’t need to be checked. If you have a gauge style canner, USDA suggests that they are checked every year, as gauges can easily change in accuracy.
Wednesday, June 17 we will be at Lehman’s in Mt. Hope from 9-1 offering canner checks and then again on Thursday, June 18 at Lehman’s in Kidron. If you have questions, this is a great time to talk with Kate or myself about the process of safe home food preservation. If you can’t make it to one of these time, but would like your canner checked, please call the office for an appointment. I’ll be at Rittman Orchards on June 16 and 23 for classes also, call there for more information.
Remember that food plays an important part in our family traditions and it’s great way to get the family involved in planning your food preservation for the summer!