These are the doors to my canning pantry. This is in the section of our house that used to be the garage, but we remodeled into living space (see the outside transformation here). I plan to get the next installment of the Remodeling Series about this garage remodel soon.
OK, don’t hold your breath, but it won’t be too long.
Anyway, a few weeks ago, a reader asked if I would show my canning pantry and freezer at the end of the season to see if it would look like the one in the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Alas, ours will not feed us alone through the winter like Barbara Kingsolver did – that takes a lot more thought, effort, and time than I have now – but it certainly allows us to eat from the garden during the winter (salsa, tomatoes and sauce, marinara, pickled cukes and beans).
And, we get to have fun things that didn’t cost anything more than the cost of the lids, sugar, and/or vinegar and spices. This includes chutneys and condiments, pickled jalapenos, pesto, jams, and juices. Plus fruit for smoothies and vegetables for soups, which can help the budget during the winter.
It makes it a little easier to “eat in season” when I know I have garden-fresh canned and frozen foods I can pull out when we’re tired of just what’s available.
This is the inside (uhh, obviously-sheesh!). It’s lined with two shelves from IKEA. They hold jars three deep (four for 1/2-pints). I use the top for full jars and the bottoms to hold the empty jars in the boxes as we use them. The middle is for canning and freezing equipment.
This year I did some apple pressing and canning with my extended family, and have had to appropriate some of the box shelves for full jars. You also see my braided garlic and bags of storage onions from the garden.
This is not the ideal storage for home-canned goods. The goal is cool and dark. I’ve got the dark covered, but since our chimney is behind it, not the cool.
But, you take what you can get, and it’s very convenient, won’t freeze, and I’ve actually not had a spoilage problem in the four years I’ve stored the jars here. I make it a goal to use up the canned goods within a year to 16 months, so that could be one of the reasons.
Next up is the freezer. When this was in our basement at our last house I gave it nary a thought. Then when we finished the remodel and added this laundry/garden/mud room, it was the only place for the freezer.
And we saw it many times a day.
With it’s circa 1980s grey and black racing stripes running down the side.
And it’s rusty, stained spots.
Ugg. So I painted a couple coats of blackboard paint on it and my husband glued molding to the edges like a picture frame. Much better.
But the biggest benefit has been that I can list what I put from the garden in there each year, and erase it when I use it, keeping a tally of what I can or should use up. This comes in really handy around June, when I need to be using things up to make room for the new stuff, and I can just look at the tally and plan our menus with these in mind.
Here’s the full view – it’s pretty full now from the season (October and November are it’s fullest times, normally), and from some stock-up deals I got on ice cream last July and meats the last few months.
These two shelves are for fruit products- jams, syrups, and frozen fruit. Some fruit I freeze on cookie sheets to use in smoothies and recipes, and some I slice and mix with a spoonful of sugar and we eat them for breakfasts. Mmm.. so good left just slightly frozen.
I’ve also appropriated some area to the left for pesto overflow and bags of chopped chili peppers.
The next shelf is for vegetables and bread (again notice the pesto overflow…it’s taking over!).
The bottom shelf is for last year’s produce I haven’t used up yet – I will plan some soups and stews with these in mind during the next month. This bottom area also is overflow of things that don’t have a spot (the ravioli) or don’t fit on the normal shelf (the bread and a large ham in the right corner).
At the very top, I always store the freezer and roasted marinara sauces. I’ve only got about half of what I had last year…I know I’m going to miss this when it’s gone, it’s a super convenience food for us! I think I have enough tomatoes ripening to get another batch, but that’s about it.
The door is supposed to hold all the pesto, but couldn’t this year, as you witnessed.
I also store my pre-cooked beans (see the method here) and vegetable/chicken stocks in the door, as well as the juice and butter you see here.
OK, I hope I’ve inspired you to plan a garden (whatever size) and preserve what you can from it (or CSA boxes, etc.) next year!
I think that’s about it for the harvest this year. I’m going to try to get a batch of applesauce using the piddlin’ amount from our tree, as well as the marinara I mentioned, and then I’m hangin’ up my canning/freezing hat.
And you know what? Always about this time I’m ready to not think about it anymore.
So it works out perfect.