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My Small Batch Life

I’m just back from a week’s vacation.  I have a nearly completed book weighing heavily on the brain, freelance deadlines loom, and what do I do?  Buy more summer fruit, of course.  (The verdict is still out on whether this is a form of masochism or sideways stress relief.)

I began canning last year around this time after rolling a crate of peaches “seconds” home on a luggage cart from the farmers’ market, 14 pounds to be exact.  A few weeks prior, I met a Twitter-friend/soon-to-be-real-life-friend at his house to watch him and his wife put up tomatoes and tomato sauce by both waterbath and pressure canning methods.

Come peach day, I was ready.  I plotted and arranged all the recipes; I lined up my jars, lids, bands, cookware, etc. the night before.  Eight hours and at least 29 full jars later, I still ended up with six quarts of peach puree for the freezer.

The fact is, this scenario (loads of ripe produce needing to be stored for the future) is not modus operandi like it used to be a half-century ago.  Most of us have to seek out abundance, drive to u-pick deals, and fork over some cash for quality, local produce.

Rather than give it up as hot, toiling, and potentially expensive hobby, I made canning my own.  Since peach day, I haven’t made a single recipe where I used the actual amount of produce called for.  I’m always dividing recipes (amount of produce I have divided by amount called for), trusty calculator in hand, because that’s what I have to work with, and really, how many jars of peach jam or pickled asparagus are we going to consume?

When we’ve made sure to eat as much of our micro-abundance fresh, I get to decide a canning action plan.  Last night I made blackberry vanilla jam with the remaining three half-pint containers of blackberries from my procrastination fruit run, which yielded three, sealed quarter-pint jars and another scant half pint of jam for the fridge.  Three short jars fit nicely in my two-quart saucepan fitted with a six-inch cake cooling rack.

I’m sold on super-small batch canning projects because they fit into the context of my normal life, after the dinner dishes and before climbing into bed with a good book.

CAA Contributor Kate Payne is the blogger and author behind forthcoming book, The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking(HarperCollins, Spring 2011).  She lives in Brooklyn, NY and hosts food/jar swaps and invites friends over often to watch and participate in canning adventures. She posts small-batch canning recipes, gluten-free baking projects, DIY cleaning product trials and other creative home improvisations to her blog Hip Girl’s Guide To Homemaking.

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2 Comments

  1. Cyn says:

    This is my first year having a CSA share and I was beginning to feel overwhelmed by what to do with all the bounty. We just got a lovely bag of peaches yesterday and I am going to adopt your small-batch philosophy. Thank goodness for calculators!

  2. Nicole says:

    I have been a compulsive food-seeker for 10 years. Last weekend I found myself with 2 pints of okra, 4 pints of eggplant and a smaller water bath canner than I have ever owned (gifted to me) and still had not used. I canned my 6 pints and left it at that. It was very liberating!

    Once the water cooled, I used it to water the garden as always and with the smaller canner I can achieve boiling so much faster that I didn’t worry that I was wasting too much energy for a small output.