Happily, canning season is coming to an end. Aside from possibly one more box of apples, I've finished all I plan to do for the year. And oh man, is it satisfying to be able to say that!
I haven't written much about canning this year, mostly because it's all the same stuff I wrote last year, and the year before that. Nothing's changed much except that I can kick out jars of canned goodness much more quickly with each passing year.
Here's the list of what's in the "pantry" (read: shelves in the basement. Because I have no real pantry.)
Peaches: 16 quarts
Nectarines: 5 quarts
Apricots: 7 quarts
Pears: 10 quarts
Tomatoes: 15 quarts
Strawberry jam: 16 pints
Apricot jam: 3 half-pints
Apple jelly: 5 pints
Peach jam: 8 pints
Cherry preserves: 3 half-pints
Applesauce: 8 pints
Pear chutney: 13 half-pints
Salsa: 19 pints
Bread & butter pickles: 7 pints
Zucchini pickles: 3 pints
Dill pickles: 3 pints
Apple pie filling: 7 quarts
Apple cider: 4 quarts
I just added it up: 152 jars of food. Wow.
Since peach season in August, I've spent about four hours canning each week, usually a couple of hours on free afternoons, after school is finished and the girls are enjoying some free time (or hang-out-in-the-kitchen-with-Mom time.) It's tiring, but not overwhelming.
And I'm done! We'll have enough fruits, sauces, jams, jellies and pickles to last well into summer next year. Feasibly, all I'll have to buy is bananas. We can snack on canned fruits, have them for breakfasts and desserts all through the winter. I've got about 15 pints of dried fruits as well, which make for lovely snacks.
I'm in the mood for a bit of math. Let's see how much all this food costs to put by. Because math is cool, right?
Peaches - 4 boxes @ $10
Nectarines - 1 box @ $5
Tomatoes - 4 boxes @ 5.50
Pears - 2 boxes @ $8
Apples - 2 boxes @8
Strawberries - 8 pints @ $2
Cherries - 2 lbs @ 1.50
Apricots - free from a neighbor's tree
So about $118 in fruit. All the vegetables I grew in the garden. The costs of the other ingredients I'll estimate at about $50, which seems high except that I use organic raw cane sugar for all the fruit and jellies. That also includes the boxes of pectin, and extra vegetables, spices and such for the salsa and chutney. Figure another $30 for lids for all the jars. So about $200, rounded up, for 152 jars of mostly organic food, or approximately $1.30 per jar.
A jar of organic jam costs $4. Half-pints of chutney sell at farmer's market for $6. A quart of organic canned fruit is almost $5.
I have no desire to do *that much math. But clearly, I'm saving money. A lot of it.
And this food is local! Well, most of it is, anyway. I've talked to the farmers, I know many of them by name. I can ask them whether they spray their crops, or use chemical fertilizers. There's the proof that eating organic and local really is possible, and doesn't have to be that expensive. Is it a lot of work? Well, yes... but it's enjoyable work. It's work that allows for time spent chatting and singing with my daughters or friends in the kitchen, and enjoying the feeling of accomplishment that comes from knowing I'm feeding my family well. And it rarely actually feels like work.
More and more moms my age are canning every year it seems, and I love hearing about it! Wal-Mart sold out of their canning supplies this year, along with most other stores here in town. I think this whole canning/preserving thing is really taking off (for the second time around.)