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Is your garden overwhelming you yet? Mid-summer is one of that seasons when you are up to your ears in produce and you’re scrambling to find ways to preserve it and not let it all go bad. When just a few short weeks ago you were hoping that every little flower would turn into something edible.
Before I go any further let me give you a few tips to help you get through this crazy season.
Take a breath and look at what you have off the plants already and make a list of what will go bad and in what order.
Also, remember that if you put a lot of the produce in the refrigerator that will slow the time it takes to ripen or go bad.
You could even freeze some of your produce if you just don’t have time to can or dehydrate it all. Alright, let’s get to the essential tools you need for canning, dehydrating, and food preservation.
These are the things that will take up the most room and will in most cases be more pricey. But remember that you don’t have to do every single food preservation method. Choose the one that will get you the most variety of food you like to eat. Then expand as your skills grow.
Granite Ware 9-Piece Water Bath Canner Kit
Granite Ware 9-Piece Canner Kit 21.5 Qt
This kit has everything you need to get started except the cans and rings.
Canning is a very cost-effective way to preserve and store all kinds of fresh produce. It’s also fairly easy and inexpensive preservation technique to get into. Aside from canning jars the main piece of equipment you’ll need is a water bath canner. This is nothing more than a large pot with a jar rack that your canning jars will sit on.
If you already have a large pot you can buy a canning rack here.
That’s exactly what you’ll get with this granite ware water bath canner. The pot is a great size for canning, but I’m sure it will also come in handy when you’re making a bit pot of soup or chili. I’ve also been known to use mine to boil pasta in a pinch.
Let’s get back to the main reason for getting this inexpensive pot through – canning.
It’s lightweight and easy to use. It works well on both gas and electric burners. Be aware that this pot is not recommended for glass top stoves. As I already mentioned it comes with the metal canning jar rack. This will sit in the pot and keep the glass jars from touching the bottom of the pot.
Why is this important? Because having the glass in direct contact with the bottom of the pot can cause your jars to bust open. Let me tell you that is not something you want to clean up. For that reason alone it is well worth investing in a proper water bath canner. You also have a little more control over the heat and jars this way, having better overall results.
If you find yourself cooking throughout the year in this pot, you’ll appreciate the fact that it is dishwasher safe.
The 21.5-quart water bath canner holds 7 one-quart jars, 9 one-pint jars, or 12 half-pint jars. That’s plenty big for the average family. If you find yourself doing larger batches of canning, consider picking up two of these to use in tandem. At the price, this is something you can easily do, even on a tight budget.
Ball Complete Book Of Home Canning
Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
This book is a great reference book totally worth having your own copy.
If you’ve even just considered giving canning a try, or bought a set of canning jars to use for storage or even drinking glasses, you know that Ball is one of the biggest names in the canning world. If they publish a book on canning, it’s something worth paying attention to and this Complete Book of Home Canning does not disappoint.
Yes, there are a lot of free resources about canning available online, but there’s just something about having a big book sitting on your kitchen counter that you can reference throughout the canning process. It’s also nice to have and leaf through for inspiration when you’re facing a big batch of produce that needs to be “put up”. – I always need help with ideas because I can cook but I’m definitely not super creative in the kitchen.
Canning is a great way to enjoy healthy, nutritious foods throughout the year. It allows you to preserve everything your garden has to offer throughout the year and it allows you to take advantage of great offers from the farmers market.
As expected from a book like this it has a lot of recipes for a large variety of canned products you can make right at home in your kitchen. What makes this book such an invaluable resource though is all the extra information packed into these pages. You’ll find detailed information on the basics of canning and each step of the food preservation process.
Safety is crucial when you’re preserving food that you and your family will eat months from now. This book has a lot of information about foodborne illnesses and how to prevent them. You have to make sure you kill bad bacteria through preservation and to make that happen, you have to follow a time-tested process that this book will teach you.
This is a book on canning that you will come back to again and again, to review processes, take advantage of the handy guide on produce weight vs. volume, and of course to try some of the amazing recipes included. I highly recommend you add this to your library of cooking and homemaking books.
Canning Kit Without The Water Bath Canner
Norpro Canning Essentials Boxed Set, 6 Piece Set
I have this kit and it is totally worth it. It’s also perfect for keeping all of your canning supplies in one spot not floating all over the kitchen.
If you get nothing else extra this kit will cover almost all of the handy kitchen tools you will need for canning.
Here’s what’s included in this Canning Kit. There are the jar lifter tongs. Also included is a set of kitchen tongs. These have been coming in handy to left canning lids out of the pot when boiling them to sterilize, but also to handle hot food that needs to get into the jars.
Speaking of which, the included funnel makes it easy to pour liquids into jars without the risk of spilling it all over the jar and the counter. The funnel is fairly wide, making it easy to pour chunky things like apple pie filing for example into canning jars.
Jar Wrench – When you’re canning, you need to tighten lids after you get the hot jars from the water bath. The included jar wrench is surprisingly helpful with this. Much safer and easier to do than my old method of grabbing some kitchen towels to tighten the lids.
The kit also includes a magnetic lid lifter and jar depth measure. It’s nice having everything you need to can in one spot. I keep it all in the box to make sure it stays together.
This Canning Accessory kit is a great addition to your kitchen. It’s very affordable and worth every penny. I think you’ll find it just as helpful as I have.
Ball Mason Jars
Ball Pint Jar, Regular Mouth, Set of 12, (16 oz)
Getting quality jars matters because you know they are made to last and you shouldn’t have to buy new jars for years to come.
I love Mason jars. They are of course great for their intended usage – canning, but I find myself grabbing them throughout the year for all sorts of different things. We use ball mason jars as drinking glasses, flower vases, storage for leftovers, to bring lunches on the road and more.
Older jars that are past their canning prime can be turned into all sorts of arts and crafts around the house. Mostly keep an eye out for chips or cracks around the mouth of the jar. Take a quick look at Mason jar crafts on Pinterest and you’ll find a lifetime’s worth of ideas to use these canning jars.
Ball is my favorite brand when it comes to canning and mason jars. In addition to canning, they are a great storage solution for the freezer as well. Ball jars have yet to break on me in the freezer or in the canner, but you do want to be careful not to put a freezing cold jar right into a hot microwave or in hot water. Let it warm up a bit on the counter before trying to heat the food. Also NEVER put the can lid or rim in the microwave. They will ruin your microwave and even cause a lighting show you will never forget.
Here is a post about not putting aluminum or metal in the microwave.
It’s important to note that once you freeze a jar – any canning jar, you should no longer use it for canning. Keep that in mind when you start to make things like freezer jam, or use jars as freezer containers. Keeping good track of what can go in the freezer and what’s used only for canning is important.
What Size Jars Do You Need
Before you start to can anything, think about what serving sizes you end up using any particular food in. For example, if you use only half a jar of spaghetti sauce at a time, and then struggle to use it all up before it goes bad, pick a smaller jar when you make and can your own. The same goes for jelly for example. If you’re not a big jelly or jam eater, make small batches and can them in small little half-pint jars. This allows you to still make a variety of different fruit preserves and more importantly it makes sure that jelly stays tasty to the last bite.
What I love about Ball Mason jars is that they come in a huge variety of sizes. On top of that, you can pick regular or wide-mouth jars. You can order them straight from Amazon and have them delivered to your front door. With free Prime shipping, this is one of the most cost-effective way to get them. Start your collection and I’m sure you’ll use these jars on a daily basis for years to come.
Using the dehydration method is mainly for foods that you want to eat as finger snacks or are not that great in water storage form. Often like canned meat.
Presto Dehydro Electric Dehydrator
Presto 06300 Dehydro Electric Food Dehydrator
I have a dehydrator that takes up a lot of space and this one would be awesome to have on hand if space is an issue.
If you’re short on space, dehydrating is a great way to preserve some of your favorite fruits, vegetables and even meat. If you’re a big fan of dried fruit, veggie chips, or jerky, getting an electric dehydrator to make your own can be a very smart move. Dried food is EXPENSIVE and you never quite know what’s in it and it has been treated with unless you make your own. It won’t take you long to recoup your investment in a dehydrator.
Dried fruit is a great addition to your favorite cereal, oatmeal, grits, or granola. It also makes for a yummy snack on its own or mixed into your own homemade trail mix.
My biggest problem with store-bought dried fruit aside from the high cost, is that you never know what the fruit has been treated with to make sure it lasts and looks pretty in its dried form.
Aside from that, you don’t know how high quality the fruit was to begin with and what pesticides it was treated with before being dried. Making your own dried fruit to top your cereal gives you full control over the entire process.
The same goes for veggies. You can dehydrate just about any type of vegetable to make your own dried soup mixes. They are a great way to save space and make fixing dinner during the winter months easy peasy. If you’re more in the mood for healthy snacks, make your own veggie chips.
And then there’s meat. Yes, you can dry meat and make your very own jerky. If you’ve bought a bag of beef jerky at the store, you know how pricey it is. Why not make your own? Again, you control all the ingredients, and you can play with different flavors to come up with your very own jerky.
What I love about the Presto Dehydro is that it’s a great intro level dehydrator. It’s very affordable and because the dehydrating trays nestle into the machine, it doesn’t take up a lot of space. It’s the perfect model to start dehydrating. If you find you enjoy the process, you can upgrade to larger, and more expensive models down the road, while still taking advantage of this model to do some of the dehydrating for you. Give it a try… you won’t regret it.
Excalibur 9-Tray Economy Dehydrator
Most of us start with a fairly small, usually round dehydrator that holds just a couple of trays. It’s a great start and the perfect way to try things out and see if dehydrating makes sense for you and your family. After a while though, you may be ready to expand and dehydrate more food at once. This is the next level dehydrator that will help you get more done faster.
Electric Food Dehydrator Machine
Excalibur 2900ECB Electric Food Dehydrator Machine with Adjustable Thermostat, Accurate Temperature Control and Fast Drying, 400 W, 9 Trays,
If you’re feeding a large family, have lots of produce to dehydrate from the garden each summer and fall, or just want to be able to make larger batches of dried fruits, veggies, or homemade jerky, you’ll be ready to upgrade to a larger model. If that’s the case for you, I recommend the Excalibur 9-Tray dehydrator.
It’s an electric dehydrator that gives you 15 square feet of drying space. If that sounds like a lot of space, it’s because it is. The good news is that the dehydrator doesn’t take up all that much space because of the tightly spaced, vertical 9-tray system.
Dehydrating large amounts of food all at once has never been easier. Just load up the trays, set the temperature and you’re good to go. The 7 inch fan and the design of this dehydrator work together to ensure even dehydration. There’s no need to rotate trays or move the food around. Just set it and walk away. It doesn’t get any simpler than that.
Each tray has easy-to-clean poly screen inserts that will also keep your food from sticking as it dehydrates. That makes for easier food removal and cleanup when you’re done. There’s nothing worse than having a big mess to clean up, or losing a large portion of your produce to being stuck to the equipment.
One thing you should be aware of before you buy is that this dehydrator makes a bit of noise. It’s a good bit quieter than my dishwasher, but you can hear it when it’s running. If that’s going to bother you, sit it in the garage or basement, or even a spare room to dehydrate. It doesn’t bother us enough to move it out of the kitchen and usually, we run it overnight in the first place.
This is a great dehydrator that allows you to dry a lot of food at once. Perfect for large batch processing of all your favorite fruits, vegetables, and meats for making jerky.
Non-Stick Dehydrator Sheets
10-Pack Reusable Non-StickFood Dehydrator Sheets
Homey 10-Pack Flexible Reusable and Resizable Non Stick Teflon Food Dehydrator Sheets, 14×14-Inches
Dehydrating is a great way to preserve fruits, vegetables and even meats. It’s also a wonderful way to make healthy snacks like veggie chips, living breads, raw food treats and the likes. For most dehydrating, the included mesh trays for your dehydrator work just fine.
If you’re processing sugary fruits like peaches, or bananas to make banana chips for example, things can get a little sticky. I mean that in a literal sense. These fruits can get stuck in the drying trays, making it hard to remove them when they are done. The solution is non-stick dehydrator sheets that lay right on top of the mesh screen. Even the stickiest fruit peels right off. When you’re done, just wash the sheets with a little hot water and soap, allow them to dry completely (this is important), and store them until you’re ready to use them again.
These particular sheets work well for most Excalibur dehydrator models. If you’re using a different dehydrator, check on Amazon, or with the manufacturer for non-stick sheets. You should be able to find them for just about any dehydrator out there.
To store the sheets, you can either stack them up and store them on one of the trays when not in use, or roll them up and stick them inside an empty paper towel roll. Either way, they are out of the way and safely stored until you’re ready to use them again.
These non-stick dehydrator sheets also come in very handy when you’re making fruit leathers. You can’t make these on the mesh trays of your dehydrator. Don’t even try. They’ll get stuck and it’s a huge mess you don’t want to have to clean up.
Instead, prepare your favorite fruit leather mix, line your trays with these non-stick dehydrating sheets and evenly spread the mixture on the sheet. Turn on your dehydrator and walk away. When you come back a few hours later, you’ll have some delicious fruit leather. Kids love this as a healthy snack and great alternative to gummies and various candies.
Having these sheets is by no means essential for using your dehydrator, but it’s a nice addition to have. It gives you more options and makes your dehydrator an even more versatile small kitchen appliance.
Anything you can do to get the job done faster will help you avoid procrastination.
Freezer Meal Containers
Containers, Oven, Microwave & Freezer-Safe, 16 fl oz
Frozen & Fabulous Meal Prep Containers with Clear Storage Lids, Oven, Microwave & Freezer-Safe, 16 fl oz, Set of 10, Black
Freezing is a great way to preserve food from the garden, or when you were able to get a deal at the local farmers market, or the grocery store that was just too good to pass up.
Often I end up freezing the raw produce or meat, but my favorite way to preserve things when it comes to the freezer is to cook and freeze entire meals. It makes dinner time go much easier and even makes for quick and easy take-and-heat lunches.
The key to successful freezer cooking is having containers that will preserve your meals and make it easy to reheat them. That’s where these freezer meal containers come in handy. They are safe to use in the freezer, microwave, dishwasher, and even the oven. They are inexpensive and can be used a few times before disposing of them.
According to the manufacturer, you’re supposed to dispose them after one use in the oven. Personally, I find I can safely use them a couple of times, but use your own judgment.
The containers are large enough to hold a freezer meal for one person. That means you can make your favorite freezer meals, portion them out and stack them up in the freezer.
These are great for taking to work or in the field. If it’s time for dinner, you can pick as many containers as you’re feeding people. This is perfect when your kids are getting older and aren’t always home for dinner or a spouse works late.
As an added bonus this makes it easy when family members have different dietary needs, or are simply in the mood for different food. You can grab one container of chicken, green beans and rice, and another one with chili. Defrost and heat them both at the same time and custom-made dinner is done.
Since these containers are microwave safe, they are perfect for taking lunch with you to the office. Rinse them and when you get home, toss them in the dishwasher. The clear lid allows you to see what’s in it. That being said, I still recommend that you label your containers. I find masking tape across the lid or even a piece of paper taped down works well. You can even include reheating instructions if you know you won’t be there to reheat the food.
Since these portable freezer containers are so inexpensive, they are perfect for talking food to someone recovering from illness of loss in the family. Instead of sharing your best Pyrex dishes or making a big batch of a freezer casserole, you can take a few homemade, proportioned meals to them that are sure to be appreciated. Perfect for new moms too while they recover from giving birth and caring for a newborn.
If you want larger dinner freezer meals aluminum foil containers like these are going to be your best bet for having large oven safe containers.
Glass Food Storage Containers
10 Pack Glass Food Storage Containers
10 Pack Glass Food Storage Containers with Lids Leakproof, Airtight Glass Meal Prep Containers For Lunch, On The Go, Leftover, Dishwasher Safe
Freezer bags are fine for storing food in your freezer, but with plastic getting more and more controversial. While I’ve used canning jars in the freezer in the past, they aren’t always the best use of space. I came across these glass food storage containers and have been using several sets of them ever since. They are perfect for freezing and storing smaller amounts of fruits and veggies from the garden.
They are perfect for blueberries for example. I pour them in the container (making sure they are completely dry so they don’t stick together). Since the lid is easy to open, I can grab a half cup of berries for my smoothie and then return the rest to the freezer. The containers are rectangular making it easy to stack them in the freezer.
The glass is sturdy, high quality glass that will keep your food safe. You can also take it from the freezer to the oven or the microwave. They are even dishwasher safe, making for easy clean up as well. If you do a lot of meal planning, and find it helpful to make individual meals ahead of time, these containers will fit the bill perfectly.
If you want to save money by taking lunches to work. The lids snap on securely, so there’s no need to worry about spills and leaks. At work, the food can quickly be heated in the microwave. As I mentioned, the containers go straight to the dishwasher.
If you’ve been looking for a workable alternative to plastic containers, this is a great option. The lids are made from plastic, but it is BPA save and not much of it will come in contact with your food. The seal around the lid and the four snaps keep your food inside the container, even if you pack everything in a bag.
If you’re eating and storing a lot of tomato products (leftover spaghetti or soup for example), you know that tomato will stain plastic like crazy and there’s no way to get it all out. With these glass containers that’s not an issue.
Smaller Food Preservation Tools
- Magnetic Lid Lifter
- Dial Gauge
- Vegetable Peeler
- Food Chopper