I try to be thoroughly acquainted with my own faults and being a lazy preservationist is certainly one of them. While row after row of full glass jars gleaming like jewels on the pantry shelf provides a deep sense of satisfaction, delighting the eyes in its beauty and squirrel-like abundance, even more, I love spending my summer days out in the fresh air and sunshine. I’d rather be in the garden than managing the fruit of its production.
And so I’ve become a lazy preservationist.
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Over the past 15+ years of homesteading, I’ve formed a preference for preserving with as little fuss as possible, prioritizing crops that can be stored with no further processing. I take what the land offers and don’t purchase to make up the deficit. If I fail at growing strawberries, my punishment is no jam. Experience has taught that in a dearth of one crop, the Lord will provide abundantly in another. Accepting what He gives, without making up for the deficiency at the market, not only challenges me to uncover if the cause is the result of my own shortcomings as a gardener and make up for it next year, but also leaves me feeling my dependency on His provisions and in a partnership with Him to bring the land to yield.
Over the years, we have begun to eat seasonally as much as possible. Were I to freeze blueberries for 52 weeks of blueberry recipes, the excitement of that first harvest would be diminished. After all, we just ate blueberries 7 days ago, not 9 months.
Besides, who can deny that sun-ripened produce is far superior to a preserved counterpart? There’s simply no comparison.
In return, I can spend more time outside before freezing temperatures and the need to give the kids some book learnin’ drive me indoors in a few months and not heat up the kitchen with pots of steamy boiling liquids condensating the already muggy air. (More than I hate canning my produce in the summer, I hate canning the air and shun air conditioners.)
My 2022 harvesting & preservation season has already begun and I thought I’d journal it both here and in my Instagram story highlights. You’ll see the basics in my stories and if your curiosity is piqued by what you see, you can come on over here and get more details about the rhyme & reason behind what I’m doing, recipes or methods, and how I’ll use it in my kitchen later this year.
To calculate my targets I use the 52-week or 12-month system. Do we want to eat this once a week, twice a week, once a month? And then estimate from there.
June is still pretty busy for me in the garden. I spend the first week of the month finishing up planting warm soil-loving seeds like corn, beans, and squash. I fight a fast and furious battle with the weeds knowing that if I can get on top of them now and get the garden covered in mulch I can start to relax for the rest of the summer and spend only a few hours a week weeding.
You know what I don’t have time for this month? Canning.
Fresh eating from the garden is strawberries, raspberries, radishes, kale, and lettuce. And here’s what I’m putting up:
Target: 26 pints // Current Yield: 18 pints
I can’t bring myself to deprive my children of fresh strawberries for the sake of making jam. We eat freely and chuck the undesirables & cut off tops in plastic bags and into the freezer. When I have time on some rainy day the next few weeks (ok, so I didn’t get to them until September 19th when I started thinking I should make room for the whole chickens we’ll be butchering soon), I’ll defrost them and make jam then. We ended up with 4 ½ gallon bags of strawberries. I’m happy with that considering I decided ¾ of the bed needs to be revitalized for next year.
Wow, it was a good year for garlic scapes! I harvest nearly 10 pounds, nearly doubling last year’s haul. But since I struggled to use up last year’s scapes I knew I had to manage these sooner rather than later. The 10 pounds were all managed in about an hour and a half, most of which was chopping.
Refrigerate Two-Month Supply
Target: 1 gallon bag // Current Yield: 1 gallon bag
First, and easiest, I filled a gallon bag of scapes and tossed it in the fridge. They will last for a couple of months until the cloves are ready to use. I will chop and use these anywhere I would use chopped or minced garlic. It’s the same great taste, only prettifies the dish up more.
Garlic Scape Olive Oil
Target: 2 pints // Current Yield: 2 pints
I cut the curliest parts of the scapes and layered them in a wide-mouth pint jar before covering them with olive oil and setting them on a window sill. In a few weeks, the oil will be infused with garlicky flavor and be perfect for brushing on toast or pizza crust.
Dehydrated Garlic Scapes
Target: 1 pint // Current Yield: 1 pint
Easily chopped and arranged on a dehydrator tray overnight, these will be added to soups or stews come fall or winter. The green color will be much appreciated. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.
Frozen Garlic Scapes
Target: // Current Yield: (I didn’t write it down)
Last year, I chopped the straight ends of scapes the width of a bag and froze them. Aaaandd promptly forgot about them. Until, that is, the few times, I took a bag of green beans upstairs and realized they were very green but not at all beans. The frozen strips aren’t very kitchen-friendly either so this year I chopped them, gave them a swirl in the blender (or food processor), and froze them in ice cube trays. They’ll be ready to pop into a dish wherever I want the flavor of garlic and appreciate the color of the scape.
I debated whether to pickle some and decided not to. While a few of the kids had suspiciously garlicky breath the few days the scapes sat on the table awaiting my attention, and they surely do love a good pickle, this would be the most labor-intensive way to process them and I can’t be positive everyone would eat them the way I know they will be used for the other methods. Were I to have pickled them I would have opted for refrigerator pickles to preserve more of the texture. If the unpickled scapes last two months in the fridge, I imagine a pickled one would last even longer so why bother heating up the kitchen?
Target: 2 pints // Current Yield: 2 pints
Our radishes are HUGE this year. I’m talking beet-sized with no splits or pithy cores. I washed a couple of pounds of watermelon radishes & Rebekah ran them over the mandoline. Just covered them in a simple brine to ferment. I know there are many ways to spice them up. We’ll try them plain and see where we think they should go from there.
Target: 12 Quarts // Current Yield: (I didn’t write it down.)
Target: 12 half pints // Current Yield: 5 half pints
Our local blueberry orchard is not only organic but also has a wonderful 50/50 payment option. Harvest as many berries as you’d like, sort them and keep half for free. They even let you take home the seconds for free. I have the added bonus this year of having enough older children I felt comfortable sending them off on their own so Bill & I could keep working on other projects. They brought home 18 pounds of berries the first day. (And with another few weeks left to the season, I’ll be sending them back.)
In keeping with my Lazy Summer-Loving self, I simply flash freeze some of them on a tray to be used every now and then for something special later this winter.
Most of the berries we will gorge on now that they are at their freshest and finest. I poured a generous bowl out into the middle of the table for fresh snacking. (They were gone within a day.) Three quarts were set aside for breakfast & a dessert this week- muffins, scones, & a crisp. I froze the seconds in a big lump in a bag and am thinking I'll can some Blueberry Syrup for making ice cream when Indie freshens in August.
I ended up making a Blueberry Syrup recipe that strained out the solids and found another recipe for Blueberry Butter that uses those solids to make more of a jam. That gave me 2 ½ more half-pints of preserves!
Figuring out how to preserve zucchini has been one of the biggest challenges for me over the years. I tend to never end up doing anything with frozen, shredded zucchini over the winter. I can’t remember ever using the dehydrated zucchini either.
Target: 24 (2 per breakfast/once a month) // Current Yield: 19
What works best for me is simply making it into Zucchini Bread or Muffins right now while it’s on the counter and freezing the loaves. I’m making breakfast anyway, so what does it hurt to double the recipe each morning? Of course, there’s always the risk of getting into a rut and the ensuing complaints, which is no way to start a day so I have basically 4 bread recipes on rotation- Zucchini Bread (with or without a handful of chocolate chips, Chocolate Zucchini Bread, Lemon Zucchini Bread (with or without blueberries). Ok, so that’s 5 variations but the Lemon Zucchini Bread almost always gets blueberries.
Sweet Cucumber Pickles
Here is the recipe I use for pickle slices. The most common question is whether you rinse off the salt used to extract excess moisture in the slices and the answer is no. (I imagine some is lost in the drained water.)
Target: 52 pints // Current Yield: 55
Dill Pickle Spears
Target: 52 pints // Current Yield: 54
Kosher Dill Pickles
Target: 12 half gallons // Current Yield: 4
Nothing fancy. Just your typical salted, fermented kraut. I’ve never grown as much cabbage as I have this year thanks to this row cover fabric.
Target: 26 Quarts // Current Yield: 10 Quarts
My last two batches were infested with fruit flies… I’m not that great at fermenting and issues like this make me avoid it were I to be honest.
Target: 80 Quarts // Current Yield: 66
Yeah, I know canned beans would be more sensible and fill up those lovely pantry shelves but canned beans make me gag. Literally. My dad passed on his thing with texture I guess. I try to get over it but canned green beans completely trash the texture and flavor of one of the crispest, sweet, and most delicious garden offerings. Freezing it is. I have tried skipping the blanch and we really didn’t care for them that way. They were a little more fibrous or something.
To Freeze Beans:
• Blanch- I just put them in a pot of boiling water (that stops boiling when the beans cool it) and leave them in there for a couple of minutes until they start to brighten. Snap off the stem tip first. I don’t bother snapping the curled bottom end (I think it’s pretty.) And I don’t snap them into bite-sized pieces.
• Rinse- To stop the cooking, transfer the beans to a big bowl, preferably with ice (which I never have). Run the beans under cold water or plunge them in a clean sink of ice water until they are room temp. The faster the better.
• Dry- I lay a couple of clean towels out on the counter and lay out the beans to dry for a few minutes. Just so they’re not dripping wet.
• Flash Freeze- Arrange the beans on a baking sheet and take them to the deep freeze for about 12 hours to freeze up. This step keeps them from freezing in a big clump.
• Package- Transfer them to a freezer bag of choice. I guess I prefer quarts. If I need more I grab two. If I need less than a gallon I’m not having a bunch of half-filled bags of beans floating around the freezer.
Target: No target // Current Yield: 14
This is the recipe I use: Cayenne-Spiced Dilly Beans. They make for a nice, snappy twist on pickles.
The marinara sauce recipe I use is the quintessential lazy canner’s recipe! The recipe credit is from The French Slow Cooker & I simply adapted it for canning. The prep time is less than 10 minutes (and that includes weighing the tomatoes & carrots), then set and forget in the slow cooker for the rest of the day or overnight. When they’re done, strain off all the liquid, puree, and pressure can! It really couldn’t be more simple, the yield is higher than a traditional tomato sauce, it tastes WAY better straight out of the jar, and, best of all, there is no babysitting it on the stove or risk of scorching it if you walk away for too long! I can quarts for spaghetti sauce and pints for pizza sauce and season it (or not) during meal prep. It works well in any recipe that calls for tomato sauce.
Target: 52 Quarts // 2021 Surplus: 24 // Current Yield: 31
Target: 52 Pints // 2021 Surplus: 27 // Current Yield: 29
Roasted Cherry Tomato Paste
If you think tomato sauce is bad, you should try making tomato paste! You have to cook out even MORE water, so the risk of scorching is even higher. Paste tomatoes are often used. I don’t know about you, but if I had to choose between eating a paste tomato and a cherry tomato, I’m going to pick a cherry every time. So doesn’t it stand to reason that a tastier tomato will make a tastier sauce or paste? So this recipe is my lazy tomato paste hack. Roast them until they’re shriveled, puree, and freeze in an ice cube tray.
Target: 12 Quarts // Current Yield: 9
No suggestions for a recipe here, just yet. This is something I had given up on in the past but am returning to again after a few years of discouragement. I’m trialing different recipes after conceding that my children aren’t going to fall for the gourmet, gel-free substitute I’ve been offering. So while I’m not thrilled to make ketchup with an ingredient that I don’t know where it came from, as it stands I’m not producing a single ingredient in the Heinz bottle either, so clear-jel it is.
Final results + recipe posted here: Homemade Tomato Ketchup Recipe
One lazy tip I have for you is jar up the tomatoes into gallon or half-gallon glass jars after pureeing and before cooking. Pop them in the fridge overnight and by morning about a third of the jar will be “water” at the bottom. Ladle the puree off the top for making ketchup and it’s that much less cooking down you have to do. Some recipes are calling for 90 minutes of cooking down and I’m getting it done in 20-30 depending on how hard it simmers. It seems that about 9-10 pounds of tomatoes makes 1 ½ gallons juice & 1 gallon of puree.
I can condiments, like ketchup, in half-pints though we could easily go through a larger jar before it spoils after opening. I find that, with my children at least, they get Fresh Peanut Butter Jar Syndrome with my home canned goods too. You know what I’m talking about. Everybody wants to take that first dip in. And after it gets down to the bottom where all the residue is sticking to the sides, all old and gross-like suddenly they’re jar blind and Noone saw it in there so they opened a new one.
Target: 52 Half Pints // Current Yield: 50
I have a surplus of salsa from last year so only made a potful. And that’s still probably more than we will use. This is the recipe I use for chunky salsa.
Target: 20 Pints // Current Yield: 20
Smoky BBQ Sauce
I really like this BBQ sauce recipe. It has a nice balance between smoke, heat, & sweet. What I like about it, even more, is that you can get the smoke flavor without any liquid bottles of nasty. The secret? Smoke the onion before you cook it!
Target: 20 Half Pints // Current Yield: 22
Peach Slices in Very Light Syrup
I couldn’t possibly make enough peaches to satisfy my kids. If I let them, they’d each polish off a quart per sitting all winter long. The best I’m willing to do for them is to let them split one quart a week. I’ll buy a bushel or two a week through peach season and once my other peach goals are met, will can slices till peaches are done. If I get more than 52, great! But one a week is my minimum goal.
I use the basic canning recipe, but do not dip the fruit in boiling water to peel. What a hot mess & waste of time! I wait until it’s ripe enough to just grab a corer and skin it. I’ve heard it’s good with the skin on, but I save the peels for making peach peel jelly.
Target: 52 Quarts // Current Yield: 54
Peach Chipotle BBQ Sauce
This BBQ sauce is amazing on chicken or pork chops! A little bit of sweet followed by the heat! I can a few different types of BBQ sauce so 12 pints is more than enough for the year.
Target: 12 Pints // Current Yield: 9
Delicious on vanilla ice cream, biscuits, or stirred into yogurt and granola!
Target: 52 Half Pints // Current Yield: 62
Peach Peel Jelly
I save the skins & pits from all the other peach canning, cover them in water and boil them to make a juice that is canned into a frugal jelly to fill the gaps while we wait for traditional jelly flavoring plants such as grapes and strawberries to become more established on our new homestead. Here is the recipe: Peach Peel Jelly
Target: 52 Pints (Total jelly & jams) // Current Yield: 23 Pints
Crisp Apple Slices
Here’s the recipe I use for canning apple slices. This year we’re putting on a movie & knocking it out a bushel at a time using Ginger Gold & Honeycrisp. Two movies oughta give us the year’s supply I’m looking for.
I don’t like a peeler/corer here, the slices are too thin.
Don’t be adventurous and mess with the sugar. If you try to cut back there won’t be enough juice. You want that water to get pulled from the apples so they stay crisp. Also be sure not to go any longer than the 24 hours max or they start to get too soft on the edges. Overnight is perfect.
Target: 52 Quarts // Current Yield: 77 Quarts
In preparation for butchering season, I bought a giant 21-quart electric roaster (that will hopefully make quick work of rendering the lard that normally takes a week to work through in a 7-quart crock pot…) I broke it in by making a HUGE batch of apple butter overnight and woke up to puree & can it all at once. It was really nice having it done at one go!
Target: 25 Half-Pints // Current Yield: 45 Half-Pints
Target: Whatever our tree gives // Current Yield: 0
None. That’s what our tree gave us. The squirrels though fared much better and the tree yielded quite a few to their family.
I won’t purchase apples for applesauce because it is a labor-intensive sticky mess and is literally impossible for me to preserve enough for the kids to eat. They’d each take a pint per sitting if I wasn’t there to stop them. Assuming my oldest is at work and it’s just the 6 younger ones for lunch, that’s 3 QUARTS of applesauce in a day. If I made an allowance for one day of applesauce per week that’s 156 quarts of applesauce. Talk about an exercise in futility.
Apple Scrap Jelly
Like the peach peel jelly above, apple scrap jelly uses up all the peels and cores from canning apple slices. I freeze them for a rainy day, defrost them overnight, passively simmer for hours the day before I’ll be cooped up indoors, then strain off the juice and refrigerate them overnight. Then it’s Rainy Day Jelly Making Time.
Between the strawberry, peach, and apple scraps I was able to make 57 pints of jam using waste fruit, more than enough for one pint of jelly per week!
Target: 52 Pints (Total Jam & Jelly) // Current Yield: 26 Pints
Caramel Apple Coffee Jam
Came across this interesting recipe and decided to give it a try! I wouldn’t make a ton, but it’s a fun and tasty novelty for something different every now and then.
Target: No target // Current Yield: 6 half-pints
Apple Jalapeno Jelly
This may just be my favorite jelly! I’ll have to share the recipe some time. Not sure if I would feel the same way if I was still in the PB&J stage of life, but on a biscuit, a cracker with brie, or with homemade pork rinds… in a word- amazing!
Target: No target // Current Yield: half-pints
Before we butcher our next round of meat birds, I needed to make room in the freezers & finally make stock using all the carcasses from this summer’s grilled chicken meals. I also need to hurry up and use up the rest of the chicken feet so other members of our butchering crew don’t use their leftover presence in the freezer as an excuse not to save feet this year.
I used the Ball Fresh-Tec Electric Canner to make two big batches of stock. It can handle like 4 carcasses plus all the veg! And simmered down to ⅔ of the volume & I got about 10 quarts of finished stock per batch.
This is not all the chicken stock we use in a year, but it’s probably all I’ll can. Through the winter I tend to make it as we roast a bird & leave the dated jars in the refrigerator until I use it.
Target: 21 Quarts // Current Yield: 23
If you’re interested in the details of this experiment check out the 22 Preserving highlight on my Instagram. Basically, I was shooting for a way to can dry beans that didn’t pulverize them into mush. I only had slightly satisfactory results with black beans, probably because their small size means they have less interior to get too soft. I’ll probably just keep using the Instant Pot to quickly cook beans and then flash freeze them as I need them.
Target: No target // Current Yield: 14 Pints
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I love this! Takes the pressure off, for sure.
I bet you could try fermenting some of your scapes vs. pickling them with a canner next year! My haul wasn’t as big. But It crossed my mind to try.
This is so interesting and valuable to me! I’ve always wondered what it looks like to plan and execute preserves like this, I never have done it but always fantasized about growing enough to have a store for the winter!