Plan and enjoy your healthy harvest
Published 3:01 pm Sunday, October 2, 2016
Years ago, canning was a way of life, but today’s health conscious consumer is taking another look at a skill that is too good to be forgotten.
When Patty and Mark Conradt’s children were small, they decided that by gardening and canning, they could provide the healthiest food possible for their family.
The family lives in the heart of Rose Creek, Minnesota, next to The Rose Creek Locker, which has been a family business for 60 years. The Conradt’s found a way to combine their love of gardening with the family business when they bought the lot next to the locker and turned it into a gardener’s heaven. The lot is filled with three vegetable gardens, Honey Crisp apple trees and rows of beautifully landscaped flowers of every color and variety.
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Patty has experience as a Master Gardener through the University of Minnesota Extension Program and she has served Mower County in this capacity by being involved with 4-H and the Mower County Fair.
“Gardening is not a burden, it is something that we do because we love it,” Patty said.
Patty’s husband Mark, son Carter, 17 and daughter Ashley, 16, are all involved with the process.
“Carter is currently building new strawberry beds in the garden, and Ashley enjoys canning food for fair projects,” Patty said.
Patty said her mother-in-law taught her about canning, but added that you can also find lots of information on the University of Minnesota Extension website.
“One of the biggest advantages of canning is that everything tastes better. After you get used to fresh potatoes from the garden and applesauce made from the apples from your apple tree, it is difficult to go back to the store bought food,” Patty said.
The family does not use any chemicals in their gardens, but instead opt for a more natural approach to protecting their produce.
This year they are wrapping the apples on their Honey Crisp trees with a nylon covering.
Patty pointed out that another reason that canning is gaining in popularity is that you are not eating food with preservatives.
Patty and her family also help with other family gardens at Patty’s childhood farm in rural Lyle, Minnesota. Last year she and her family canned 300 jars of food. Some of the family favorites include applesauce, meat, tomato juice, peaches, salsa, carrots, and apple butter, ground cherries and sauerkraut.
“I have learned a lot along the way, but nobody should be afraid to try it. To get started you will need some glass canning jars some heavy duty tongs, a special pot, called a hot water canner/large pot for jams, fruit or pickles or a weighted pressure canner for vegetables and meat. You can get most of this equipment at your local hardware store, Runnings or Fleet Farm. The easiest item to start with is jam or jelly because there are only two ingredients — berries and sugar,” Patty said.
Patty’s instructions for how to can your own strawberry jam:
•Start with freshly picked washed strawberries.
•Cut stems off the berries.
•Mash the berries or blend in a food processor
•Follow your favorite jam recipe and measure appropriate amounts of strawberries and sugar.
•Cook together according to recipe instructions. Always use an approved USDA recipe for canning.
•When the mixture comes to a boil, fill the canning jars.
•Put lid on the jars and screw band on.
•Boil water in a hot water canner/ large pot. The water should be 1-2 inches above the tallest jar.
•Put jars in boiling water bath for 5-10 minutes.
•Take jars out of bath using tongs and let them cool.
•Listen for the seal to make a popping noise as it cools. When you hear the noise, you will know the can is sealed. Press in center of jar after it has cooled. A jar that is sealed properly will not have any movement. If the lid moves at all, this means it did not seal.
•If it does not seal, put jam in refrigerator and use right away.
•Store the jars you have canned in a cool dark place.
•Mark a date on the lid of the jar with a permanent marker.