When I have a over-abundance from my garden or get some especially good deals on apples or other fruit, that is when my porch becomes a gardening and canning haven. Wondering what to do with all your overabundance, I have some ideas that might appeal to you and your family. Traditionally, canning takes place on a hot August or September day, in a hot kitchen because its an all day thing to make jams and jellies or do all the pickling. For years now my husband and I have enjoyed the jams and jellies, the apple butters and all my pickled perserves without suffering through the heat and day long effort by using freezer jam pectin.
Its the no-cook version that is its fast, simple and can be done in an hour. Depending on the fruit and if you are picking it yourself, on average it will take about two hours to full an ice cream bucket of black current, raspberry or saskatoon but only twenty minutes to make the jam! You just pick and clean the fruit, blend four cups in a blender, pour into a bowl of one packet of pectin and the sugar it calls for, stir around for three minutes, fill your mason jars and seal. Instant jam and you do not have to add jams to your shopping list, just your porch pantry.
I made the mistake this year of planting a whole row of zucchini plants! I had zucchini coming out of the ground and out of my ears but I was determined not to waste a single fat zucchini. I water blanched and froze enough for the winter months in pre-measured amounts for use in recipes. I made really excellent bread of some and pickled the rest. Same is true of all my late cucumbers. The small ones I flash bathed in ice water overnight then pickled and left them to sit for a month. The larger ones I used up in recipes. With an abundance of cauliflower, broccoli, turnip, carrot and celery I made cream soups and had several different kinds on hand in my fridge for a quick meal.
When I had too many soups prepared; I saved the two litre milk cartons, cut off the tops, labelled and dated a double lined freezer bag and put inside the carton, poured my cream soup in and froze it. After freezing, I remove the bag and can store my frozen soups with ease without taking up too much freezer space, using the carton over and over again. Doing this making thawing easy too.
Apples! This year I have made my four day, spiced apple cider several times and bottled it in Mason Jars. This is an ideal way to use up small apples. I use some of it when making my spiced apple butter. There are two ways to make apple butter, one is stove top, the other is baked and both take time to prepare because three pounds have to be cored but not peeled and I use the little apples off my trees so naturally it takes a lot longer to prep the what I need. I prefer the stove top version, it is easier because I do not have to babysit while it is in the oven; just leave on low on the stove for a few hours until it thickens.
Apple pie and puddings go a long way to using up the apples too. Then I make a variety of apple jams, including rhubarb/apple, raspberry/apple and spiced apple. I am also working out a nice recipe for spice applesauce. My porch pantry is growing by the shelf full as I carefully date and label each jar and put the oldest items to be used first thus giving the newer stuff a chance to age. Whatever I did not freeze, make jam or butter out of or pickle, I store according to the needs of the vegetable or fruit and place accordingly in my porch pantry so I can get to them easily.
It is easy to create your own porch pantry for the winter by deciding what you want to store and how you want to arrange it. We have a 12 by 12 porch that houses our freezer, bin and a three tier shelf. Plus a wood box for the indoor wood stove, a trash box and a recycle box. I made sure there would be room for two large tables for gardening and canning purposes and all the shelving I could possibly want for my preserves and such. Since this project is, at the moment, still in progress I think I will add a potato box as well. Root vegetables do better if stored away from the light and from other fruits and vegetables. Half the battle of preparing a pantry is to know how to store your food, it is not unlike having a root cellar, only above ground with easier access. Plan to have one for next year if you do not have one ready for this winter.