Saturday, May 04, 2013

The beginning of canning season...

is not actually starting today, but sometime this week, I hope. Two summers ago I was very diligent about preserving food. I ended up with quarts and quarts of canned fruit and pickles and jam and applesauce. I also had plenty of frozen fruit in my freezer that we had picked. It felt good and I didn't buy any canned fruit or jam or applesauce or pickles at all the next year. That felt really, really good. 

Last summer? Well, not much canning happened. Actually the only preserving that went on was to freeze the flat of cherries I bought at the farmer's market and can the case of pears I bought at the grocery store when they were less than 30 cents a pound. It was meager effort. In my defense there were mitigating circumstances. First, we had just brought home H. and I was completely unprepared for exactly how taxing, both mentally and physically, that would be. I had very little energy left over to do much of anything, much less can. The other factor that didn't help was the drought. There just wasn't a whole lot growing to pick and preserve. It either ripened at an odd time and we couldn't get to picking it or there just wasn't anything to pick. Even if I had had the energy, there wouldn't have been a lot to work with. 

I'm hopeful that this summer will be different. I've missed having a full pantry and don't like to have to rely on what I get in the grocery store. (I usually prefer the taste of what I've made at home, aside from the fact I know what went in it all.) It also keeps that rogue prepper streak which I usually keep fairly well in check satisfied. I have pretty big plans.

For this week, I plan on starting with canning some mango chutney. I wish I could say that I came up with this brilliant idea on my own, but must give credit to the H-S family mom. We had been discussing that mangoes are $3.99 a case this week and she said she was going to get an extra case and try making chutney.  I know when I hear a good idea and am completely stealing this one. We really like chutney, but I really don't like the cost of the little jars. So I, too, bought an extra case and plan on turning them into chutney. I've been investigating recipes, trying to decide how to make it. The trick is that not all chutney recipes can be canned, either because they contain ingredients which cannot be canned safely or they are not acidic enough to preserve. This may be my experimental year and I end up doing small batches of a couple recipes. I'll let you know what works.

I also hope to finally get the cherries I froze last summer turned into jam. That was my intention originally, but the whole lack of energy-thing took its toll and I ended up just throwing them in the freezer. We need some good jam, so cherry jam is also on the docket. Along with canning and freezing, I also hope to invest in a dehydrator and try drying my own fruit as well.

So my questions for all of you are.... does anyone have a really good mango chutney recipe appropriate for canning that they like and which will save me a whole bunch of experimenting? And, if you own a dehydrator, what kind do you have, do you like it, and what do you tend to use it for? Really, I guess I'm asking is it worth it?

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