The "Food in Jars" Mastery Challenge – October: Dehydrating and Pressure Canning

The October “Food in Jars” Mastery Challenge was very conveniently for Dehydrating and Pressure Canning, two things that I had to do for the “end of garden” process around here anyway.  Due to the first frosts happening in Southwest Minnesota in October, slowly but surely we had to get everything out of our garden. Unfortunately, the garden had a slow start this year because of a complete lack of rain and was just finally really doing well!  Go figure. Anyway, here is a summary of what we did in October!


Banana Chips – I work at a long-term care facility, and one day on my way out the door the kitchen was getting rid of a box of overripe bananas. I’ve taken them home before and know that they are really sweet, delicious bananas that are different than what I can buy at our grocery store – so I snagged them, came home and cut them all into slices and put them on my dehydrator trays.  I have an older style Nesco dehydrator and it works fine, but takes things a lot longer to actually dehydrate than what most recipes say. Anyway, I’d say they ended up in the dehydrator for about 24 hours total, with the trays rotated a few times.  When they are done, they are still a little chewy and I worried that there was too much moisture in them for long term storage, so we pretty much just ate them all within a week. A quick tutorial for this process can be found here from The Prairie Homestead blog (except I skip the lemon juice part due to personal preference.)

Marinated “Sundried” Tomatoes – My mom had a bunch of volunteer grape (or cherry, I really don’t know the difference) tomato plants this year in her garden, and she wasn’t going to pick them.  I couldn’t leave them there, all lonely and sad, so I picked them and brought them home.

With some of them, I made Marinated “Sundried” Tomatoes and followed Marisa’s recipe and process.  They are delicious, and we also used the leftover marinade for several (dinner) things. When they were dried, I did put them in a freezer bag in the freezer for longer term storage.

Herbs – We had a variety of herbs to dry from the garden, including basil, parsley, cilantro, sage and mint (three of which are shown in photo.) I still have quite a bit of sage and mint left from last year, so we will be sharing some of it with our four chickens. I know some people hang it upside down or dehydrate it, but all we do is lay it out on plates or baking sheets and let it air dry. I check on it every few days and move leaves around as needed etc.


Black Beans – Last year for Christmas, I got my husband a pretty cool “Survival Seed Vault” and it had quite a few normal things we always plant in it, but it also had a packet of black beans. We had never planted these before, and did this spring – they grew really well and we currently have a big square window screen of them drying in our office. I think they are about ready to shell.

Smoked and Dehydrated Peppers – We had an awesome crop of serrano peppers this year, which dare I say I think I like better than the beloved jalapeno? Anyway, forgive me for saying this but I just couldn’t get as much into canning everything in sight this summer as I normally do, so I came upon this blog about making chipolte chiles and decided it would work for serranos. We LOVE these.  We have done two whole smokers full and have used them in lots of things so far. They rock.

Pressure Canning:

Spaghetti Sauce – We made our annual batch of spaghetti sauce and I pressure canned it. We use tomatoes, yellow onions, green peppers, sugar, fresh garlic, fresh basil, salt and citric acid. I am comfortable with the safety of what we do, but I don’t have a recipe to share.

Other Projects:

Tomato Jam – With some more of my mom’s cherry/grape tomatoes, I made a batch of Marisa’s Tomato Jam. So far, we have turned a jar of it into barbecue sauce and used it on grilled duck. It is delicious!

Green Tomato Bacon Jam – I still had more of the cherry/grape tomatoes from my mom’s garden left (and at this point I was wondering why I didn’t just leave the dang things there like she was going to.) A member on the Food in Jars Facebook group recommended her recipe for Green Tomato Bacon Jam (a freezer recipe, not a canning recipe) – and I gave it a shot.  So far, I’ve eaten it on a pork chop and it was AMAZING.  I’m excited about the other four small jars of this that I have in my freezer.

Hot Pepper Mustard – My mother-in-law has always made hot pepper butter (also called hot pepper mustard.) It is one of our favorite things, especially on ham loaf. We were on our last jar, and decided to use the majority of our summer banana pepper crop on a batch of this yummy goodness. Problem being, the original recipe has flour and based on things I learned in the Facebook group this year, I didn’t want to use flour. After doing some research, I decided I was comfortable using the original recipe, but swapping the flour for Clear-Jel, which had been done by blogger OneSunnyAcre.  It turned out great! (You can find Clear-Jel on Amazon.)

Green Tomato Salsa Verde – We weren’t going to can green tomato salsa this year because we still had a lot left from last year. But, I ran out of things to do with green tomatoes, so I made a small freezer batch. When we make it to can, we follow the Ball Canning recipe Green Tomato Salsa Verde.

I cleaned out my refrigerator today and it makes me so proud to see all of the things in there that we MADE. Many things from products that we GREW or bought from local farmers. How cool. I counted 26 mason jars in my refrigerator of various sizes! Apple butter, cherry rhubarb sauce, green salsa, red salsa, peach/blueberry/strawberry jam, raspberry jam, dill pickles, zucchini relish, hot pepper mustard, pickled green beans, raspberry/rhubarb shrub, salt-preserved lemons and limes, horseradish, ketchup, among other things.  I love that this hobby makes my refrigerator look like that!

Here are some other “end of garden” pictures. We will be working on freezing kale and Swiss chard this coming week, and making some sauerkraut.




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