“Ten red jars… sitting on my bench”

Well I managed it.  10 jars of delicious tomato relish, and I made it in my new 20 litre preserving pot.  I feel like a proper kitchen gardener now, not just the pretender I was before – using the largest pot I had that was probably more suited to a slow, stove top stew feeding a large family than whipping up a jam.  There was always the danger it would boil over if unattended for even half a second.  So now I have all the right gear, there is nothing to stop me from preserving everything that grows.

But is this enough to get us through the year?
But is this enough to get us through the year?

Well actually there is – my meagre jar collection.  I try and collect them throughout the year, but very few jars come into our kitchen and what jars are here are part of a closed system where they have strawberry jam in one season only to find themselves filled with pickled onions the next.  While the jars seem to have an infinite lifespan ahead of them – so long as they don’t get broken, the lids are another story.  The seals don’t seem to last beyond a couple of seasons and the lids themselves begin to rust – especially if they have protected pickles for too many seasons in a row.  I need to find a jar lid supplier!

It's like I never processed any in the first place

I have wonderful friends who regularly bring me their empties throughout the year, but away from the heady season of harvest preservation, poor Hubby the Un-Gardener just sees this as unnecessary clutter and I’m sure some of precious collection gets surreptitiously sent for recycling!

But there is a huge array of things hanging in the garden – moments away from optimum perfection and need to be contained within jars.

At this point I have two options – I could put out a call to my nearest and dearest and ask for jars and lids, or even just lids or I could go through my extensive collection of elderly preserves and do the unmentionable – throw them out!  Well if we haven’t eaten those green pickled tomatoes in four years then I don’t think it will ever happen.  Or we could have a pickle party and deliberately and intentionally eat them!

And yet they still come...
And yet they still come…

I think my biggest bottleneck in my jar cycle is making too much, with eyes bigger than my stomach.  I need to do a stocktake of everything in jars, hidden way in places one would not expect to find jars of jam.  But when you make too much then you need to store it all somewhere – anywhere!  Which is also half of the problem:  if you can’t find it, you can’t eat it!

Then I need to make another list – just how many jams, pickles and preserves can a family of four realistically eat?  The next step would be to create storage space for this amount only, and once I hit the quota for tomato relish then I either need to stop making it or use them to bless others, provided they return the jars!

My infrequently used bookshelf stash of preserves
My infrequently used bookshelf stash of preserves

It is all about making the garden work for me, providing me with what I need.  I have become a slave to my garden and it is such a hard task master, demanding that nothing grown goes to waste.  Once I have my Preservation List firmly attached to the inside of a cupboard, I need to take a further step into the real root of the problem – sowing the seeds.  I need a list there of how many plants is the right amount to keep us in home grown produce without verging into the gluttonous.

I can’t do anything about the many fruit trees I already have, and in a few years I will be awash with more fruit than I know what to do with.  This season is just a preview of how good fresh fruit actually tastes.  I really shouldn’t plant more trees, but then I want to pop in one more plum to ensure I have all pollination possibilities covered and you can never have too many feijoas, right?

The biggest offering from my nectarine tree so far
The biggest offering from my nectarine tree so far

But now I need to decide how to deal to the tomatoes that have replaced the ones that were sitting in the kitchen a few days ago demanding to be turned into relish.  These ones seem to be asking to be juiced.  Bloody Mary’s anyone?  Chin chin.

And I need to get Hubby the Un-Gardener to look at the prickles in my feet.  Sadly I’m not as flexible as I once was and accessing the soles of my feet has become next to impossible.

Come again soon –  how many ways are there to process Sweetcorn?

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

44 thoughts on ““Ten red jars… sitting on my bench”

    1. Hi Cissy. I had to have a second look at that photo. Sadly i don’t have a super tomato – it is just unintentional trick photography. The stem in the photo is the main stem of the plant and the tomato truss is actually sitting behind it – with it’s normal size stem.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

  1. Hi Sarah 🙂 I buy the cellophane covers in packs from the supermarket to cover my shortfall of lids, I never know where they go! Our tomatoes are really slow in ripening this year, not enough long sunny days, our summer is not what it was last year. Yours look great.
    You can simply not have too many feijoas 🙂

    1. Hi Wendy. I have some of those cellophane covers in my pantry. I have used them before, and in a lid shortage situation, however i like using the lids. There is a reassuring pop when the seals take. My mum assures me she only ever used the cellophane covers and it worked well enough for her. And they are cheap as!
      Cheers Sarah : o )

  2. You have invested heavily in your garden–watering systems, greenhouse, all the bells and whistles. The point of the garden is produce. It only makes sense that it is time to invest in decent canning jars. They only cost once; you buy new lids each year and that way you can safely. Used lids are an invitation to canning disasters. As for those excess tomatoes–well, you haven’t lived until you’ve eaten your own dried tomatoes. You can use a dehydrator, or the hubby ungardener can make you a screened solar dehydrator. The dried tomatoes, and other vegies and fruits, take up little room, they retain more of their vitamins, they require no energy to store and added to soups and stews they add a fresh flavor that you cannot reproduce with traditonal canning.

    1. HI There. I have been toying with the idea of getting some proper jars, but a few years you could pick up boxes of them for next to nothing at second hand stores and supermarkets still sell the lids, but the thing is, it has become so fashionable lately that the cost of the jar almost makes it not worthwhile. I have a dehydrator, however I think I have been under utilizing it, so this season I am really going to give it a bit of a work out. I am also thinking of trying to dehydrate tomatoes in the greenhouse – it gets hot enough in there! Thank you so much for your encouragement.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

  3. Our Tomatoes were not as prolific this year,still managed afew jars of pasta sauce ,hope the next lot will produce more.
    Just finished bottling 12 bottles of Pears,
    Do you know what breed of nectarine you have ,they look delicious, and would like to include one or two in our planned food forest orchard.

    1. Hi Graham. I believe it is called Nectarine Goldmine and has white flesh, is very juicy and comes off the stone really easily which should be helpful when it comes to processing the large crop in seasons to come when the tree is bigger!
      My pear trees have still get to get going, however the quince started producing a bountiful harvest almost straight away! All the best with your food forest.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

  4. Hi Sarah, just yesterday I saw a box of jar lids down here at my favourite Hospice Shop. Try find them in the second hand shops, Sallies, whatever you have up in the far North… And yes, cellophane works, too. I really enjoy reading your blog, gives me loads of inspiration! Thank You! Cheers.

    1. Hi Marion. I think I may need to investigate my lid options more thoroughly. I have not problems with using the cellophane one, but I just prefer the lids. Maybe I should get friends to save theirs for me so I will always have a supply of lids.
      Thank you for your lovely comment.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

  5. Good work! If ever I end up with too much of something (usually a myriad of cherry tomato varieties or hot peppers) they simply travel to work with me and are given away fresh. Less work and my jars don’t leave the house!

    1. HI there. That sounds great, however I work from home. I do take excess produce to church and late last year I took 6 very large carrier bags of lettuce which was gratefully received. The main purpose of the garden is to supply all our veggie needs and so I am finding ways to save the harvest so we don’t have to buy them later on.
      Thank you so much for your suggestions.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

      1. Ah! That makes sense 🙂 I tend to freeze extras to make the sauces with later, but now that I have a pressure canner I may be hoarding jars upon jars soon!

  6. Another idea for tomatoes; roast them whole in the oven in their skins when they’re still quite small, with garlic, olive oil, basil and oregano. Once they’re soft and starting to shrivel, put them into ziplock plastic bags, suck out the excess air, and freeze them. They last a good 6 months like that, and do a great job of adding a nice tomatoey zing to whatever you put them in. And I second the comment about using proper preserving jars and new lids every year – the jars are made of thicker glass and will stand up to repeated preserving, and the proper lids give you a safe seal that reused ones don’t – no point in preserving all that goodness only to give the family a nice dose of botulism.

    1. Ohh Kate I like that idea. I generally freeze most of the harvest and we have somehow ended up with a lot of freezer space. I haven’t actually tried proper canning as I am a bit wary of the dangers of it. I used to work in food safety laboratories so taking the proper care when preserving is almost second nature to me. Most of my endeavors are jams with a high sugar content and pickles, relishes and chutneys with a high vinegar content, and have never had any problems and if a lid looks in anyway dodgy or doesn’t make the ‘pop’ to show it has sealed properly I’ll throw it out.
      Thank you so much for your support.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

      1. I recently invested in a pressure canner, and it’s changed my life! OK, slight exaggeration, but I can now can low acid, low sugar foods without any trouble. I don’t have to be too concerned about jar failure, as I use authentic Ball jars and lids – and the jars NEVER get given away! You can get the pressure canners through Amazon.com, and they’re very easy to use.

  7. Lovely post Sarah and I always still put a wax disc on top before my lid goes on the jars like you I collect jars and keep them stored but I always put them though the dishwasher and then safely heat them in the oven while cooking what’s going into the jars

    1. Hi Linda. Thanks for your advice. I haven’t tried the wax before, but I have seen it at the supermarket. I always thoroughly wash the jars and then have them in the oven too. I boil the lids before using them and have a magnetic stick to pick them up so they stay clean.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

    1. Hi Anne. Gosh, that must have been dramatic to have a jar explode. I haven’t actually done any proper bottling, and mainly stick to jams, pickles, and chutneys. Most of the harvest gets frozen.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

  8. I agree with Avwalters you need new lids every year. If you were closer to me I would GIVE you the two boxes of canning jars in my basement!! Here a lot of my friends get their canning jars on a free ad site online-kijiji… For next to nothing. There is always someone hoarding jars who then decides canning is not for them. As far as keeping track of what you have- what about a little inventory chart in the basement near the pencil. mark what you make and put a checkmark for how many you have and every time you collect something scratch off a check. this is what I do with my deep freeze. You are one ambitious woman!! Keep up the good work!

    1. Hi there. Thank you so much for your advice. How lovely would it be if we were closer – we could also swap jars once they were full! Preserving here at the moment is in the height of fashion and so what was once a cheap and abundant resident of many second hand stores is now something that will remove the cost effective aspect of preserving your own. I haven’t done any ‘proper canning’ as I am wary of the dangers, and stick to jams and pickles with their high sugar and vinegar content. The rest of the crop ends up in the freezer. I am thinking about creating a spreadsheet – I’m such a nerd! For the freezer I have a chalk board on the wall in the kitchen with a list of what is in the freezer and which shelf it is in so I can see at a glance what is there – or you tend to forget what is lurking at the back. Thank you so much for your encouragement.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

      1. I am afraid of canning some things too esp when using a zip lock bag and putting it in the freezer is so much easier. Freezer gets a little too full sometimes though! good luck!

  9. Oh for too much! ;). There are lots of ways to preserve the harvest that don’t involve stacking shelves with jars. Dehydrating fruit into dried fruit and leathers gives you a lot more room to cram jars of preserved vegetables on your shelves. Turning things into powders and dehydrating veggies for winter soups is also a great idea. Kudos on getting your big pot. I use a pressure cooker sans lid as my go-to BIG pot. Can’t wait to see what you do with all that corn (did I mention how envious I am? 😉 )

    1. Hi Fran. I was going to have a play with making dehydrated veggie powders for stock. I stopped buying stock ages ago because the powders had too much stuff in them that wasn’t veggie, and the liquids – well if you only needed a little bit – then well – it was just inconvenient. And I’m not organised enough (yet) to have pre-made ones in the freezer being regularly replaced when used. So having a jar full sitting there to add a spoonful to a meal when required seems like a much better idea and it was already on my list of things to try.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

        1. Hi Fran. I think that is where I got the idea. Sometimes you read so many blogs you don’t know where the cool ideas come from. And it was a really good idea too. I loaded my dehydrator with every veggie in the garden and blasted every last drop of moisture out of them. Then ground them to a fine powder in my blender. Oh my goodness – it is so good! I need to make more. The thing is – considering how many veggies you put in – you don’t get all that much out.
          Cheers Sarah : o )

          1. But WHAT flavour! A great way to use up excess harvest that stubbornly refuses to lend itself to any desirable way to preserve it 🙂

  10. Hi, In NZ you can get new lids for commercial jam/pickle jars from Arthur Holmes website, they are really cheap (a few cents each) and there is no minimum order. The order codes for the ones that fit standard Craigs, Pams, Cerebos jars are:
    70mm Gold twist cap C70MTT
    63mm Gold twist cap C63MTT
    38mm Gold Twist cap C38MTT (sauce bottle tops)
    PS. I think you’ll find NZ preserving practices are very different to the US, lol.

    1. Hi Lynne. Thanks so much for all that wonderful advice. I have a catalogue, but a lovely friend read my blog and bought around loads of jars so I am sorted for a wee while. I may have a good look at my jar situation in the winter when I have more time and maybe look at ordering a load of new ones.
      I haven’t actually done any bottling since home economics class in school many moons ago. But the Edmonds cookbook advice seems vaguely familiar. Maybe I should give it another go.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

  11. “It is all about making the garden work for me” totally with you on that one. It’s taken a few years, and yes things still go awry, but finally I’ve sussed out that using smaller jars is the way to go for us (2 adults) – large jars of pickled beetroot may look great in the pantry but they seem daunting as once they are open they then spend AGES in the fridge! Oh and sussing out what we like to eat – and that doesn’t include Green Tomato Pickle, although it’s a popular give away to friends 🙂

    1. Hi Claire. Despite moaning a lot about the imminent end of summer, I am secretly looking forward to winter. It is a time when I can really look at what I do in the garden and make sure it is being used in the best way and see if anything needs changing. In the heady heights of summer there is so much to do that you seem to be constantly going from one task to another with little time to think about what you are doing. Although I do love that too.
      My friends are all getting marrows as gifts at the moment. I think some friends are too afraid to come over!
      Cheers Sarah : o )

  12. I have yet to can anything…we are big eaters and usually eat up what we grow as it comes in. Maybe this year I will have a better yield and try my hand at canning. And if I were your neighbor, i’d help you pick the over abundance of fruit!

    1. Thanks for the tip Katie. I realised I had an Arthur Holmes catalogue somewhere and was about to have a good look when a friend who reads my blog dropped around with a load of jars so now I am sorted.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

  13. I rarely use lids and instead buy ‘Jam Packs’ which contain a waxed disc of paper, and cellophane circles with elastic bands. I then cut out some fabric (or serviette) hats and fit them with another rubber band. I find that the jam/pickle lasts just as long as with a lid.

    1. Hi Christine. I have used the cellophane lids and was always a little worried as they seem so flimsy. I love the idea of the hats – even using lids this is really cool. After all the effort that goes into making them – it is nice to make the jars look pretty too! Thanks for the tip.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

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