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Ah, harvest time. The gentle bubbling of the hot water bath, the hiss of the pressure canner and the low buzz of the FoodSaver are the music of August. That special time of year when hubby and I look deep into each other’s eyes and say, “Why the *%^#$* did we plant 200 tomato plants again this year?!?!?” But I love it, even when I’m sick of it. Canning and freezing the summer bounty is a family tradition for me, one that I’m proud to carry on. Over the years, I’ve collected a few tricks to help keep my sanity as the garden comes to full fruition.

First off, we take it outside wherever possible. Those big plastic tubs with rope handles from Target (usually labeled for icing down drinks) make the best baskets to collect our produce. Then we use the garden hose to rinse it right in the tub so we don’t slosh water all over the kitchen. We use the burner of our turkey deep fryer out on the concrete apron of the garage for cooking beets, simmering pasta sauce and doing anything else that makes a big mess. We even do some of our hot water bathing al fresco, when the kitchen gets a little too steamy. I don’t recommend it for pressure canning, though – the temperature regulation isn’t very precise on those burners.

Restaurant Depot and other restaurant supply stores are an awesome source for large-volume food prep products you never knew existed. We have a three-foot-long cutting board now, which is a lifesaver. But my favorite find was a pair of 8-quart square plastic tubs with measurement markings on the side. Now I always know when I’ve got a full canner’s worth of tomato juice or snapped beans and can start processing.

For cutting corn off the cob, I’ve often seen the hack that you should use a Bundt pan – place the end of the cob in the center, then all the kernels fall into the bowl as you cut down the sides. But at 5’1”, I’m not tall enough to do that without a stepstool. So I just set a cutting board down inside a baking pan with 2” sides, which serves the same purpose for us vertically-challenged vegetable processors. I do the same for cutting carrot slices, which have a tendency to go flying off the cutting board and roll halfway to the neighbors.

For freezing greens, peas, and anything else small or malleable, I wash & save the plastic tubs from our local Chinese restaurant and the Hillshire Farms deli meat tubs we use through the year. I pre-freeze the veggies in the tub, then pop the frozen bricks out to seal in the FoodSaver. Not only does this make them more stackable in the freezer, but once I measure out the right portion into the first container, I can just eyeball the rest of them.

But my absolute, all-time favorite hack is for kohlrabi. We freeze a ton of it, because it really holds its texture, but those things are a PAIN to peel. So a couple years ago, I tried our $14 rotating apple peeler on a kohlrabi, and my life changed forever. I have to add a little extra pressure to the cutting arm and it usually takes 2 passes, but it works. It’s so much fun that my kids will even help…for a few minutes, anyway.