Get Ready for Canning Season-by Georgia Totten-Sioux Falls

 Although the extreme humidity this week made the yard feel like a sauna, I had the opportunity to get out early to mow the lawn and pull some weeds that were taking over.  The nice breeze on Saturday helped!  Although a completely weed free yard will take some work yet, it is looking better.  A large, lightweight electric fan and yards and yards of extension cord made this activity doable until midday, at which time it seemed sensible to admire the result of my labor from an air-conditioned kitchen view.   

 While weeding my small vegetable patch and tying up wandering vines, I found a few early cucumbers and a handful of yellow wax beans, but the pole beans are only sending out vines with no blooms or fruit apparent.  At this point, I am hoping the seeds I planted are of a late variety or all I’ll have are some pretty vines.  Other than that concern, growing as much as I can on trellises seems to keep the earwigs at bay, but sadly, the Swiss chard and red cabbage appear to be falling victim.  

 The vendors at the market have these concerns, as well, and I am hoping they will have sufficient beans for a bit of canning if mine don’t make it.  The same goes for canning tomatoes.  Even with regular watering, I found blossom end rot and some early indication of septoria leaf spot, and so threw out one of the plants.  Although I love the convenience and economy of having my own fresh produce, I don’t hesitate to purchase a box of apples and peaches each September; buying quantities from the market vendors just makes sense when my own attempts at gardening fall short, as they often do.   Fresh picked produce is essential to good canning, and I know what is available will be fresh. 

Without much else going on in the garden and a freezer full of June strawberries, I thought I would make some jam.  However, the thought of large containers of simmering water adding to the already extreme humidity didn’t seem a good idea.  Instead, I brought all my canning supplies up from the basement and bought some pickling salt and a few other things I know I’ll be in need of soon.  Then I got out the newest Ball Blue Book guide to preserving and perused the different things to pickle brine and cook.  It’s like looking through a seed catalog in January–lovely jars of red tomatoes, jams and relishes!   

This affordable book is available anywhere canning supplies are sold, and is in my opinion,  essential to any home canner.  It gives easy to follow directions for preserving foods, be it water bath or pressure canning, dehydrating or freezing, recipes, and the illustrations are great.  So nice in fact, that if I didn’t already can, they would inspire me to do so.  Because safety standards change, it’s always a good idea to update your go-to guide.  So I save a good recipe or two from each of these and purchase a new book every five years or so. 

 I also see that the annual county extension canning seminar is being advertised.  I took this two years ago at the Ace Hardware location on South Minnesota Ave. and learned a lot, especially how to use a presser canner, and why some things I thought safe to can in a hot water bath really should not be done that way, like the roasted tomato, garlic, Anaheim pepper and onion mixture I am so fond of.   Because the peppers, garlic and onion are low acid, they need to be pressure canned.  Sandra Aamlid, county extension educator, is the instructor for this enjoyable evening clinic, and she is as pleasant to listen to as she is knowledgeable.  The class is free and very nicley sponsored by Ace Hardware annually, but one needs to sign up.  Call 336-6474 to register.  This year’s seminar is scheduled for August 23rd.   Seating is limited, naturally, so reserve your spot soon.  

Not able to attend?  One can certainly contact the Minnehaha County Extension Services directly for specific canning questions; drop by the office located at 220 West 6th Street, Sioux Falls, or phone them at (605) 367-7877.