Making It Yourself: Why Bother?

Kathy's homemade soap. Find the supplies you need to make yours at and our store in Kidron, Ohio.

Kathy’s homemade soap. Find the supplies you need to make yours at and our store in Kidron, Ohio.

I recently taught a workshop on soapmaking at our local folk school. I was telling a friend about it and she asked a pretty profound question: Why do you bother? Continue reading

Water Bath or Pressure Canners: What Works for You?

Ball Blue Book Food Canning Guide

Ideal for beginning or experienced home canners–The Ball Blue Book has the best and most up-to-date home food preserving information. Available at or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

When folks new to canning start out, one of biggest questions asked is this one: which kind of canner should I use? And the answer most often heard is this one: “Well, it depends. What are you canning?”

As frustrating as that might be, that fuzzy answer isn’t out of line.

It really is important to know what you’ll be canning. Depending on the acidity level of the food, different processes and methods are used. Continue reading

Canning Makes It Easy To Handle Special Diets!

Here you can see my 'pineapple' zukes, left, and drink concentrates, center and right. I use Ball® and Kerr® jars.

Here you can see my ‘pineapple’ zukes, left, and drink concentrates, center and right. I use Ball® and Kerr® jars.

When I was growing up in Kent, Ohio my mother and grandmother canned tomatoes every Labor day. I hated it, I just wanted to be normal and buy tomatoes from the store in a real can not a jar that we said was a can. I didn’t want the bees swarming our hot house and I wanted to tell my friends of some fun activity that we did- not can tomatoes!

I smile when I think of that young girl that so desperately wanted to fit in and be cool. Now I have given up and embraced the country world I am in and love to can. I love the freedom I have when I pull a jar off the shelf and don’t need to read the fine print or call the company to make sure it won’t harm my family. I also love that I can look at recipes in canning cookbooks and not have to make any real dietary changes. Continue reading

How Do Canning Jar Lids Work?

Canning JarsHow Canning Jar Lids Work Canning jar lids work by forming a vacuum seal during processing. The sealing compound on the lid sits against the jar and forms the all-important seal with the screw band holding it in place.

As the food in the jar is boiling during processing, oxygen is pushed out of the jar. As the food cools the lid will be sucked down and the rubber seal will form a tight seal keeping out air and protecting the food from any further contamination until the lid is removed. Standard canning lids are not reusable. The screw band part can be used over and over but the flat lid is a one-time use. After use the sealing compound will become indented which might interfere with a new seal. Continue reading

Homemade “Fast Food”

Ball Blue Book

The Ball Blue Book Guide To Preserving. Available at or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio. (Want one now? Click on the photo. )

During the summer months, I do a lot of canning. We have been fortunate that the garden has done well for the last 2 years. We thank the horses for that!  They keep us in clean, organic fertilizer. With the abundance of produce, I have had the opportunity to experiment with canning partial or entire meals. We try not to buy processed foods. I try to make everything. Condiments, sauces and everything else.

Meal Bases

We canned a lot of stews (vegetarian) and soups last summer in anticipation of these cold nights when I would be just too exhausted to cook. I packed stew vegetables and broth in jars with seasonings and pressure canned them. Squash, beans, potatoes, carrots, corn, and peas all went into the jars. If desired, for a more complete meal, pasta or beans could be added when the jars were opened. We made pasta sauce, barbecue sauce, salsa and spreads along with the usual pickles, kraut, jams and jelly.

When canning vegetables for stew, I don’t typically use a recipe. Since it’s just vegetables and seasonings, it’s pretty easy. Using a pressure canner, just about anything can go in.

Essential Glass Pie Plate

Essential Glass Pie Plate, available at or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

We don’t eat meat and although I know meat is often canned, I don’t know about canning it with vegetables. I think I would prefer to add it at the time of cooking.

When making soups for canning, I don’t use very much water. Making my soups really thick and then adding a jar of water when cooking means twice as much soup when it’s cooked. I sometimes use recipes just as a place to start. I like the Ball Blue Book of Preserving for that. It’s full of information on canning, freezing and drying food as well.


What about dessert?  If I could make pie filling and can it, then we would have fresh pie in the winter, without much fuss at all. Apple seemed like a good start. Most of the recipes call for cornstarch. Canning cornstarch just doesn’t sound like a good idea to me. So I made my pie filling without it. A note on the jar to add the starch when I make the pie keeps me from having a very runny pie.

Proper Preparation Pays Off

Now, it’s finally winter. There are the normal chores, but I am also writing again and taking some online classes. I’m really busy and often too tired to cook. Those soups and stews are coming in handy and so are the desserts. Yesterday, I made an apple pie. Using the usual crust-lined cast iron skillet, I heated the pie filling and added the cornstarch. I filled the crust and baked it for 40 minutes. It was easy and fresh!

Although we grow a good garden and have a lot of canned food, we still purchase some fresh vegetables during the winter. We always look for sales and purchase a little extra to go into the freezer. Usually it’s vegetables I didn’t grow, like eggplant or didn’t grow enough of, like bell peppers. I found red bell peppers on sale last week and made roasted red peppers, packed them in canning jars, added olive oil and a little garlic and froze them.

I cook a few times a week. Always making more than we can eat, we freeze the leftovers so that we don’t have to eat the same thing for days. Freezing meals really helps out around here. Frozen “fast food” allows us to have more variety in our diet and keep a good supply of winter “comfort food” like sweet potato soup and chili. Freezing Canning Jars

I’m sure most of you know this, but I only found out this year that some canning jars can be FROZEN! (Click this list to see if your jars measure up. Not all jars are freezer safe. –Editor)

I pack our leftovers into jars and into the freezer they go! This keeps those canning jars in use all winter long. The LIDS* can also be re-used for freezing. I know they can’t be reused for canning, but now we get more than one use out of them by freezing them!

Since we try to reuse or repurpose as much as possible, this was a huge discovery for me!  I don’t have a big freezer, but the jars seem to fit better than other containers and there is a lot more food in my freezer. In case you didn’t know, here are the Ball/Kerr jars that can be frozen-

  • 4, 8, or 12 oz. jelly jars.
  • Wide Mouth Pints or Pint and a half- (I think they are 24 0z).
  • Don’t freeze the regular mouth jars or the quarts.

Pre-Mix Baked Goods

Another really good way to keep those canning jars working in the winter is to store pre-measured dry ingredients for cake, bread, cookies or other baked goods. I mix the dry ingredients for a few items and store them in canning jars on the shelf. Then when it’s time to bake, mix in the wet ingredients, add the dry mix and bake. It’s as easy as getting it out of a box, but it’s all homemade goodness. Canning jar lids can be reused here, too.

Just about any food can be made into “fast food. ”  It can be canned or frozen or prepared and stored. It does take some extra work, but it sure pays off in good, healthy meals that can be prepared quickly and easily. It takes the pressure off when there’s no time to cook. That’s important to me. Besides, we live 35 miles from town and we work here, at the ranch. That’s 70 miles to go to pick up a pizza.

Nobody delivers.

*Lehman’s doesn’t recommend using standard lids and bands in the freezer. Plastic Storage Caps for Canning Jars are safe for use in the freezer or refrigerator.

Talking Turkey About Raising Turkeys At Barefoot Farm

Kathy Harrison, author; Lehman's guest blogger; and human being, just like the rest of us!

Kathy Harrison, author; Lehman’s guest blogger; and human being, just like the rest of us!

We’re Not All Martha Stewart
It’s tempting, when you read a blog post, to believe that the farming life is all fun and accomplishment. Who, after all, is inclined to write about their mistakes and disappointments? Well me, for one. If I only wrote about my successes, I would run out of material in the first week.

Here’s the truth of it. A whole lot of my life is just one disaster after the other. I may write about digging parsnips but I’m not going to waste a lot of ink on how many got eaten by voles. I will tell you about making cheese but not spend a lot of time on the many times my efforts fed the pigs rather than people. And don’t get me going on the fruit. My strawberry pictures were gorgeous but I’m not posting the pictures of the joys of trying to get the row covers on in the wind.

So when I tell you all about the pleasure of canning turkey and how good it tastes and how convenient it is to have all the lovely jars filling up the shelves in my pantry please know that there is more to the story than a lovely afternoon in the canning kitchen. Continue reading

Garden 2014: Plan To Preserve!

Put 'Em Up is in stock now at Lehman's in Kidron, Ohio and at

Put ‘Em Up is in stock now at Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio and at

Sure, we all plan to plant. But how many of us plan to preserve?

For instance, when do you figure your supplies for your jars, bands, lids, freezer boxes and other preservation supplies? And what recipes do you use? Do you stick with the tried and true because it’s the last minute? After all, the harvest isn’t predicatable, right?

Well, that may be true. But this is the year you change, because Sherri Brooks Vinton has published Put ‘Em Up!: A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook and Put ‘Em Up! Fruit: A Preserving Guide and Cookbook, two fantastic collections that share some great ways to dry, freeze, can and preserve your garden’s and orchard’s harvest. Continue reading

The Pickled “Beet” Goes On

Finished pickled beets have a lovely color.

Finished pickled beets have a lovely color.

I guess I went a little bit overboard but really, this time it’s not my fault. I planted the beets eight weeks ago and we immediately had a month of constant, unrelenting rain.

Fearing the worst and not wanting to be beet deprived I replanted in another bed. As soon as the seeds were in the ground we had a month of Texas-style heat here in Western Massachusetts.

Once again I assumed a failed crop so I replanted again. Of course a few days back, I happened upon bed number one and discovered a terrific crop of beets. And the second bed has sprouted too, and now I find myself with an embarrassment of beets. It’s far too early for any of these beets to go in the root cellar; I’ll plant a late crop for that so these ‘early’ ones will need to be pickled. And pickled and pickled. Continue reading

Add Pop To Your Pickling With Fermented Dills

Click here to get this national bestseller at

Click here to get this national bestseller at It’s THE book to have if you’re into fermenting.

There seems to be a rapidly growing movement toward returning to traditional methods of preserving foods, such as canning, dehydrating, root cellaring, and even… fermenting.

Fermentation particularly seems to be an unfamiliar concept in our fast-paced culture today. Often times when Americans think of something being fermented, they equate it to being rotten or spoiled. We forget that sauerkraut, in fact, is a fermented food. And it’s highly nutritious for you, as are many fermented foods! Almost every culture around the world incorporates fermentation in their daily food preservation techniques. Americans are slowly beginning to re-learn this forgotten art. Continue reading

Peach Perfect Pickle Pitch Perfect!

Wide-Mouth Ball Half-Gallon Canning Jars are great for storing Peaches!

Wide-Mouth Ball Half-Gallon Canning Jars are great for storing Peaches!

Peaches are in season, and I know that I’ll be canning some soon.

Recently, I found some canned peaches and one lonely, dusty jar of pickled peaches that I had forgotten all about.

It was such a treat to contemplate, especially on a cold, damp, dreary afternoon. I pulled out some pork chops to cook up for dinner as a juicy piece of pork with a garlicky glaze is the perfect foil for the tart, spicy sweetness of the peaches.

I’ll pass on my Peach Perfect Pickle recipe but with a caveat. I include the directions for canning this pickle but if you do can it, you will lose some of the texture of the peach. It’s still good, mind you, but to fully appreciate this pickle you really should make up a batch and keep it on the shelf. My family can eat two quarts in a sitting but we are serious eaters and there are quite few of us. Continue reading