Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Outdoor Canning Kitchen

I’ve always dreamed of having one of those outdoor kitchens. You know, the kind in the Better Home Than Yours magazines. My outdoor kitchen would be part of my imaginary wrap around deck with a double extra deep sink, cupboards to keep all my outdoor cooking equipment, and a huge gas grill with burners for big pots of whatever my fancy happened to be. Also in my little fantasy would be an ever-helpful-smiling child, chickens that stayed in their own yard, and dogs that did the dishes. But seeing as these things just aren’t going to happen….I decided to take things into my own hands. I built me my very own outdoor kitchen. Practical? Yes. Pretty. No. But it did allow me to can and pressure cook outdoors all summer and fall.

Three canopies, four 6’ folding tables, two propane burners (the kind you fry the thanksgiving turkey with), and a utility sink I got at a yard sale for $3 hooked up to the garden hose. Voila! Instant kitchen!

It didn’t take long for me to figure out how brilliant it is to can outdoors. Table gets dirty? Scrape everything on the ground and call the chickens! Jams, pickles, salsas, green beans, you name it – it was canned outside.

Then, sometime in August, we invited friends to a peach canning party. Five families canned 450 pounds of peaches! The best part? The waste of 450 pounds of peaches stayed completely outside! No peach juice running down my arm onto the linoleum floor with my feet sticking with every movement!

Shortly after peach season, hurricane Irene came through our part of the country. My favorite farmer called me a couple days before the storm to inform me that if I needed tomatoes to can, come and get them, otherwise there’d be none after the hurricane. "Ok, 150 pounds should do it, no problem", I say to myself. Not even realizing how much work would be piling up. That same day, my friend with a Pippin apple tree called to tell me her tree had already started dropping the apples. We decided they would not make it through the storm and picked them all. These apples do not keep long after picked, perhaps because they’re not sprayed? Not sure. Hurricane Irene rolled in, knocking the power out for days but that didn't stop us.

We peeled, cored, sliced and canned apples. Then we moved onto making tomato sauce and jarring that up, and WHAT? The upstairs freezer defrosted by the end of day 2 without power! We canned EVERYTHING in the upstairs freezer. Ground beef, chicken, sausage, buttermilk, lemon juice, ALL the veggies all went into soup jars. We worked hard and fast, but saved everything from being thrown away.

The season went from emergency canning back to regular canning. Our area farmer’s winter squash crops were having trouble – no keepers. The squashes were all spotty and in order to keep any, we’ve had to can them. Pumpkins and butternut squash were stuffed into jars this year.

The ‘squirrel’ season is over. The jars are all full. Canning season is never over, especially now that I don’t trust the freezer anymore.

The outdoor canning kitchen has been put away for this season. The only evidence of my extra room is the spotty lawn from the boiling over pots and beaten paths. Who needs grass anyway?

Enjoy the day -Wonderwoman

This post linked to the Homestead Barn Hop @