Stocking up: You can do it too!

When it comes to food, abundance is a good thing, right? How about when your garden starts putting out so much food that even 8-10 twenty-somethings cannot consume it all? Well, no need to panic! It just means that it is time to persevere and preserve!

Putting food up properly allows you eat preserved foods in the upcoming year without the risk of botulism. Frozen and canned foods can usually be consumed up to a year from processing date. Beyond one year, canned foods are still safe to consume, but start to loose quality. Depending on your freezer and the type of food, frozen goods usually hold true to their form and taste up to 4-12 months and much more if vacuumed sealed.

Never preserved food you say?
Putting food aside is easy; you can start today!
There’s canning, freezing, and drying, oh my!
Look at all the food you can put by!
Just pick a method to use, step one,
Then follow the guidelines below. What fun!
Keep a good reference book close by,
Then process your food with friends and watch the time fly.

Now that the rhyming is done, let’s get down to the nitty gritty starting with canning. The canning process was first invented by Frenchman, Nicolas Appert and proven to be successful in 1806 with the first canning factory appearing in the US in New York City in 1812. (So this year, the United States celebrates 200 years of canned foods!) Canning became popular as a way to provide non-perishable food items to soldiers and during non-war periods, companies were able to expand their items to the civilian market resulting in the creation of businesses such as Nestle and Heinz.

Three methods of canning are: hot-packing, pressure canning, and water bath which I will discuss here. Note, before starting any method of canning, make sure to sterilize all jars and equipment in boiling water for at least one minute. Use mason jars that are made for canning as they are made to withstand temperature and pressure. Check jars for cracks and breaks that could prevent a strong seal.

Water bath canning is used for high acid foods only (foods with a pH 4.6 or less) such as apples, peaches, pickles, and tomatoes. These are foods that naturally have a low pH or because of added vinegar or sugar.

Examples of high-acid foods (pH less than 4.6) include:






Pickled beets







Fruit juices

Tomato juice

Lisa puts the applesauce through the trusty
food mill to remove peels before canning.

To can using a water bath, follow the general guidelines below:

  • Pack food in sterilized jars
  • Use recipe to determine the correct amount of headspace to leave between packed food and lid. As a general rule, allow 1/2-inch headspace for fruits and tomatoes and 1-inch for all vegetables, meats, poultry, and seafood.
  • Place clean, sterilized, and unused lids on jars and secure with bands (bands can be reused)
  • Put jars in water bath or large stock pot so that jars are completely submerged in water (at least 2 inches of water should remain above tops of jars).
  • Once water has returned to a boil, keep jars in water bath for 5-85 minutes*
  • Remove jars from water and allow jars to sit undisturbed for at least 12 hours
  • Check to make sure lid has sealed (should have general concaveness) and then label lid with food contents and month/year.
  • Store canned foods in a cool, dry place. Remove band from jar to avoid rust.

*Timing is dependent on type of food, style of pack, and jar size.

For more detailed instructions on water bath canning, visit the Virginia Cooperative Extension website.

Freezing is another accessible and easy method to put food by. Green beans, peas, and greens only require a quick blanching before they can be thrown into a freezer bag. Tomatoes can be frozen whole and then used in stews and crock dishes. A vacuum sealer is a handy piece of technology to have at hand to increase the time of how long your frozen foods will stay fresh, but even without a vacuum sealer, frozen foods can last four or five months and maintain their taste and quality. Chest freezers are recommended for storing frozen goods as they regulate temperature more evenly than a conventional freezer. It is also important to note that freezers do require electricity! In the awful case that power is lost for a long period of time, say in July, you are at risk of loosing your frozen foods. To minimize food loss, sharing your food storage methods between canning, drying, and freezing is the recommended way to go.

AMS fellows have dove into the preserving world head first with help of Phase II fellow Sarah Collins starting in mid-August. We have gotten down and dirty (and sometimes a bit smelly) blanching tomatoes, chopping salsas, putting apples through the food mill, and more. And with all that hard work we have given next year’s Phase I fellows some tasty homegrown food to enjoy in the spring.

Jenna gets saucy!

Just a peek at some of what we have put up:

  • 100+ quarts of canned tomato products
  • 50+ quarts of pickled foods (cucumbers, beans, beets)
  • 11 quarts of applesauce and 15 quarts of peach preserves
  • Dried peaches and cherry tomatoes
  • 80+ lbs of frozen vegetables (green beans, broccoli, peppers, corn, kale, peas)
  • 19 pints of frozen pesto
  • 20 lbs of frozen chicken
From all of us at AMS, happy canning!

Produce waiting to be preserved :)

Recommended texts:
Carol Hupping Stocking Up
Ruth Hertzberg Putting Food By
Irma S. Rombauer The Joy of Cooking (1975 Edition)



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