Canning for Cheaters and the Truth About Squirrels

5:24 PM

Here is another guest blog from my very own Aunt Betty.

I feel another blog post coming on. For those of you who are skilled in the ways of canning and the like, you may want to stop reading. For the rest of us....there is hope.
Before I go any further, I will admit that I have canned many times. I have canned tomatoes, salsa, peaches,  grape juice, tomato juice and pickles. The secret is that I do it under my mother-in-law's supervision, so I'm not sure it really counts. I don't own all the canning utensils or any other items of cannery, though I will proudly admit that I do indeed own a canning funnel.
That counts.... right ??
In any case, if the idea of canning intimidates you, there are ways that you can make provisions for winter, while simultaneously earning points in the domestic goddess department. I'm not saying you need those, because if you follow Amy's blog, you're likely close to goddess status already.

But at this point you're probably wondering how you can be a squirrel. Admit it; I know you are.
So here's the way I see it. A squirrel spends much of his summer gathering nuts. He does this while the pickings are plentiful and the weather is warm enough to go looking. He collects way too much to eat, but not because he is selfish. He does this because he is smart and knows how to save for later. Okay, either that or he's just using his instincts. But for the sake of argument, let's go with the former.
If you are a vegetable gardener, you currently have zucchinis the size of baseball bats growing in your back yard. You likely have so many tomatoes that you sneak a few into everything you cook. You may even have more peppers than you know what to do with.
Even if you`re not a vegetable gardener, though, there is hope. 

I have been going to the local farmer`s market for the past few summers, and buying a bushel of red peppers. I do this when they are inexpensive. We all know that buying a red pepper in the winter will cost approximately $300 a pound. I am currently a Stay-at-Home Mom/ Domestic-Goddess-Hopeful, so this is not quite in the budget.



So here's what you do:  you bring home a bushel of peppers, and maybe some tomatoes or zucchini if you don`t have them...which for me has actually never happened.
This also works for onions, rhubarb, and peaches, and any number of  unnamed produce.
Sit down with a few huge bowls, a glass measuring cup, a cutting board and a shredder.
Oh, and a huge mug (barrel) of coffee. Because everything works better with coffee.
Chop until your hands are red or green, or you are out of peppers, whichever comes first.
Then pull out some large size Ziploc bags, and measure out, in cups, to fill the bags.
For instance, find your favorite zucchini bread recipe. If it calls for 3 cups zucchini, measure out 3 cups into your Ziploc. Label with a permanent marker, flatten it out, and freeze. Voila ! (*this is the only instance in which it is okay to say voila.) All winter long you have chopped red and green pepper or tomatoes for chili, soups and casseroles. Freezing it flat doesn't take a lot of space in your freezer, and you can stack the bags on top of each other.
As for the zucchini, you can throw it right into your recipe frozen; just account for a bit of extra moisture. Or feel free to thaw it out and drain it for a minute before using. 



Shopping for summer produce is extremely cost-effective and just generally very clever.
If you're hardcore and you prefer to be a bit more like the squirrel, you can try burying your produce. I've never tried it however, so I can't really recommend it. 

Either way, find out what they are currently selling at your local market, and buy it in bulk. Produce is so inexpensive at this time of year.  Sure, it may take you a few hours, and your hands may never return to their natural colour, but you won't have to chop onions or peppers all winterJust toss a frozen handful into your pot.

You are now a homesteading genius.

As for me... I'm going to spend that extra ten minutes a day drinking coffee.

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