Surprises, an early start and partly harvest home

The alarm went off at 5:30am. It does every morning now. I am beginning to relish more and more the peace and quiet to get stuff done or just sit and read emails uninterrupted or just research and read. It’s wonderful. When the alarm went off this morning I debated rolling over and going back to sleep. I’d not made it to bed until after 10:30pm (late for me now) and I’d spent the afternoon with a fairly severe headache so some extra sleep was a fairly viable option. I dozed off whilst I thought about it. I woke with a start ages later. 5:38am. I got up. πŸ˜€

This morning I decided to get stuck into getting the last of the current harvest (which we’d bought through our local co-op direct from an organic farmer) safely away for the coming months. Corn is the word of the day in this case. Corn, sweet corn or cobs of corn littered my coffee table and I was over them. Yesterday afternoon had been spent shucking 60 or so cobs, then cutting off the kernels to pressure can them as they can’t be safely processed with water bathing. Sorry Fowlers Vacola. This was a job for the big guns.

Canning is a bit of a confusing term as far as understanding how to can at home. When we buy canned goods at the supermarket they come in a metal tin or can, completely sealed and requiring cutting open with a tin/can opener to access the food inside. Home canning is also done under high pressure, although likely not nearly as high as commercial canning but it’s done in glass jars. Ball Mason jars are the standard jars that most canners are designed to use, usually in pint or quart amounts although other sizes are available. They are a 3 part system with glass jar, lid seal and then the screw band for the jar. Sadly, the lid seals contain BPA or so my reading and research (and a friend who has also done reading and research) inform me. 😦 The seals are a one use only although there are other lid accessories out there like Tattler lids (made of plastic but BPA free). In Australia, with our Fowlers Vacola bottling system being the most common and readily available system it is indeed fortunate that the Fowlers Vacola bottles can also be used in pressure canning. πŸ˜€

So, back to the corn.

I filled up all of my remaining #14 vacola bottles which hold about 350ml I think (1lb),Β and a few of my #20’s which are about 1.2 US pints/ 600ml , close enough to the size of a standard 410g can from a supermarket. Fill your pressure canner with water as per the specifications and get it boiling whilst you prepare everything else. Otherwise you end up waiting for the silly thing to boil whilst your bottles sit and wait.Β To can corn, fill your bottles or jars with corn to within an inch of the top and then cover with just enough boiling water to cover the kernels. This is cold packed corn. Hot packed corn involves bringing the corn to just under the simmer and making sure it’s heated through before spooning into jars and then making sure the kernels are covered with boiling water. This is considered the safer option by the powers that be as you guarantee your corn is heated through but given the preserving time and pressure I’m not concerned about it not heating through so I cold packed my corn. Once your bottles are full, carefully load your canner using the necessary tongs and put your lid on. Again, follow your canner instructions (seriously, don’t muck around with guesswork with canning. A mistake can make you very sick or worse). Mine requires bringing back to the boil then venting steam for 10 minutes before starting the pressure building. Processing time varies depending on your altitude so you will need to know your height elevation. I processed my corn high just to be sure (it’s a riskier food than some) at 15psi for 85 minutes which is the pint processing time and pressure. The #14 bottles are less than a pint but better to over-process than under. I am very generous with my processing time too as I go and do something else whilst the pressure rises so as soon as I see it’s at minimum pressure that’s when I start counting from but adding on some extra time. Mine got at least 90 minutes last night although it may be closer to 100 minutes depending on when the 15psi was preached. πŸ™‚ As I said, better to over-process. πŸ™‚ Once the canner has processed the full amount of time (if the pressure dips beneath the processing pressure you must start timing again) turn off the heat and leave it to cool and lower the pressure. Don’t lift the pressure regulator or do anything to hasten the pressure dropping. In my case, I turned off the stove and went to bed. πŸ™‚


Home canned, locally farmed, organically raised corn. #14 jars at the front and #20’s at the back.

This morning I opened up the pressure canner and removed my still steaming hot bottles. One of my #14’s broke (this can happen if there is a crack or chip or flaw in the bottle – ah well) so I cleaned off the resulting corn floaties and set my bottles on a folded tea-towel to cool. I’ll remove the clips in the next few days.

I spent this morning blanching the rest of the corn to remove the kernels for freezing and also some half cobs (they snap in half really easily) for corn on the cob for the kids. I now have a freezer full of corn kernels (5 sandwich sized snap-lock bags) and about 20 half cobs too. We bagged up the cauliflower florets too so I have officially processed all my fruit and veggies from this round. There are plenty of white nectarines for munching though. Yum!

I like surprises. Well, not entirely true. I don’t like surprises like lifting the chickens water bowl to find a breeding ground of millipedes. Nor do I like finding caterpillars on the cauliflower or corn. I definitely don’t like finding surprises in nappies (although my sense of smell fortunately prevents them surprising me very much). I DO like surprises like finding bees gorging happily in my pumpkin flowers. I do like finding that we have 6 pumpkins growing (although it’s not a huge surprise given that I made sure they were fertilised). I most particularly like the surprise I got this morning though. I usually glance in to see if any of our chickens may have deigned to lay us an egg and to my surprise this morning there WAS an egg! it’s been a LONG time. πŸ˜€ As I picked up the egg I wondered who may have lad it. Our pekin bantams don’t lay eggs as large as this one and I didn’t think our Dorkings were quite ready to lay (getting there but not yet) but as I picked it up the culprit was revealed. Miss Mandy, or Muscovy duck (as opposed to Milly and Molly, our Muscovy drakes) has finally reached maturity and has gifted us with an egg. πŸ˜€ Oh happy day!

As for the garden, I have 8 pumpkins that are growing, green tomatoes everywhere, including 1 in the greenhouse and rocket and spinach ready to harvest in the greenhouse too. My corn is still growing and some zucchinis are too although they’re both struggling for lack of both sunlight and water. Not a good location for that garden and I shall move it once the corn and zucchinis are finished. If they finish. Something has been digging in that garden bed.

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20 thoughts on “Surprises, an early start and partly harvest home

  1. LyndaD says:

    I do want to grow pumpkins as it economical and i use them in soups and roasted in salads but unless i can do it vertically on frames i cant see how. The raised beds in my blog are all i have to grow in. The pumpkin vines are likely to wander all over the place (as they should) and go all over the grass which is where we walk and the dog does his business. What do you suggest oh wise one?

    • That you reassess the meaning of wise! Lmao. πŸ˜‰ this is my first year at this stuff too so I’m learning on the go. You could try growing vertically as you suggest or even grow them in the front garden. The other option would be to find a friend with space who can grow extra and you grow extra of something you have room for and swap. There are also miniature pumpkin varieties which you may find easier to grow vertically too. Best bit is you have until next spring to research it now. πŸ™‚

    • Linne says:

      One way to grow pumpkins, squash, any vining plant, really, is to train them up a sturdy fence (preferably facing the sun and with a deep bed enriched with compost just a bit in front of the fence – not too wide; it’s best not to step directly into the bed, if possible). I used strips of old pantyhose as ties, as they won’t damage the vines. And once you see the fruit begin to form, make a cradle of pantyhose and fasten that to the fence securely, with the fruit resting in it. Otherwise, the weight of the pumpkin, etc., is liable to cause the fruit to fall off the vine before it ripens. tripods or tipis of long sticks/branches tied at the top where they cross, are very good for supporting beans, peas and the spreading type of nasturtiums (did you know they are edible, leaf and flower? They are a bit peppery, like watercress, and absolutely gorgeous in a salad. I often slice the leaves, but leave the flowers whole – after washing, of course) ~ Linne

      • Yes, nasturtiums are lovely, and pretty to boot. I tried some this year but no go. I seriously managed to kill so many unkillable plants. I’ve heard of that method of pumpkins and will have to tie 2 of mine this year even though they’re not trellised as the vine went up the fence a bit and then fruited. I think I’ll grow them in our front garden on our planned hugelkultur next year. They grow really well in hugelkultur beds.

  2. narf77 says:

    I am having this peculiarly out of body experience at the moment thanks to Steve finding my earphones and my box load of CD’s. I am listening to the Seachange CD’s this morning and it’s 6.30 (I have been up since 3am) and I am only just venturing into my rss feed read. I have written one and a half posts under the influence! God only knows what I have typed while listening to this amazing soundtrack. Do you remember Seachange? Did you watch it? If not (I am chanelling Molly Meldrum…) “Do yourself a favour” and go find it :). I have the first series but really need to buy the second. It’s one of those “must retain” items that are more than worth the money spent on them. Precious stuff (like my Terry pratchett discworld series). I am feeling sufficiently smug now because humble little narf7 shared her early morning addiction with Jess and didn’t end up getting bottled in the process πŸ˜‰
    “Canning” is in the realms of mysticism with me…huh? I “get” preserving, but “canning”? Isn’t that what Americans do? Are you using a pressure cooker or are you using something peculiar (with an American accent no doubt) that needs to be purchased and employed to “can”? I won’t be canning, bottling or otherwise preserving corn in the immediate future because neither Steve nor I are particularly enarmoured of it to be honest. Now peas are another thing! πŸ˜‰
    I don’t talk about pumpkins ever since the possums led me to believe that they were going to ignore my little forming babies back last month and then coming out one morning to find carnage (even though I had protected them with netting…) :(. I LOVE pumpkin (drawing them no so much…) and I eat it most days. I love its rotundity and its endurance and its ability to grow just about anywhere and its nutrition, taste and just “it”. Pumpkins and I are mano-a-mano πŸ˜‰
    My zucchinis got hit by powdery Mildew and I fear thats it, thats all for zucchini’s this year but I got lots of them and got to share them and I have a few sitting in the pantry waiting to be turned into the sourdough cake equivalent of a hummingbird cake (MUST remember that can of crushed pineapple next shopping day…). I guess everyones processes are different. I had an entirely satisfactory moment of pure bliss yesterday when I used Audreys spent portion before I fed her and placed her reverently back on the bottom shelf of the fridge where she overwinters till her next feed to make a gorgeous sourdough carrot cake with some of my exponentially increasing kefir. I haven’t ever made what I would call a “good” carrot cake. They are usually too oily or too wet or too something or other that results in my twitching and promising myself to never make one again (like childbirth I always forget… πŸ˜‰ ) but this one was amazing! Audrey has added to my life :). Have a great day today recovering from your corn marathon. We will be embarking on our own marathon of preserving, preserving 50 pumpkins for posterity on our media blogs (that NO-ONE shall ever be privy to! πŸ˜‰ ). Wish us luck, it can only go downhill from here! The CD just finished with that quintessential Seachange theme and I have a grin like a Cheshire cat from ear to ear :). love Love LOVE Seachange πŸ™‚ (might even forgo my taped new season of “Grim” to watch a few old episodes of it tonight and Steve might have to miss out on watching his redneck shows for a night πŸ˜‰ ).
    (lol just had to take my headphones out because I thought a plane was about to crash into the house…it was on the CD! πŸ˜‰ )

  3. Aha! MAJOR moment of recognition. I should have KNOWN you were a Discworld fan! I cut my fantasy teeth on Terry Pratchett and the first of the Discworld books I read was Equal Rites. I was also (completely unintentionally) reading Wyrd Sisters whilst we studied Macbeth in Year 11 at school (half a lifetime ago there). It has been a long time though.

    Yes, pressure canning is different to pressure cooking and bottling. Bottling, or water bath preserving is done at 90-100C but pressure canning is done under high pressure. I don’t really understand how it works but I do know that it’s the only safe way to process low acid foods like corn or beans or meat or bone broths. If you tried to process a beef casserole in a Fowlers Vacola you’d poison yourself! Pressure cooking is similar but the major difference is that pressure canning has specifics. You can something at 10 pounds of pressure or 15 pounds of pressure and for a specific time. My corn was done at 15 pounds of pressure for 85 minutes. That’s a lot of pressure for a long time. πŸ™‚ Pressure cooking is an indeterminate amount of pressure for as long as is necessary, pumpkin soup, about 15 minutes from memory. It’s just cooking the food, not keeping it for later and you can’t safely pressure can using a pressure cooker. And yes, add your American accent in as canning is the province of the Americans. We Aussies are very slow to catch on to this marvel and my canner, along with the same one my friend ordered at the same time, came from America. It’s a Presto canner. The other one is the All American.
    I love my canner and I will channel all those American canners til the cows come home just so I can have “cans” of chick peas, kidney beans, baked beans, bone stocks and all other manner of health and goodness in my pantry that I can safely say 100% that I know and understand the ingredients in them and that they are BPA free and also organic. Best of all, they didn’t cost a bomb! My canner was aroound $150 I think (not sure if postage was on top) but it’s starting to pay itself back now that I’ve the time to use it. I am spending the summer preserving a 12 month supply of canned, bottled and frozen fruit and vegetables. As I said to Martin last night, it’s 12 months of grocery shopping nearly done. πŸ˜€

    • Linne says:

      I have to say: you may call ‘canning’ the Canadian way of preserving, too, you know! I helped my Mum ‘can’ hundreds of jars of fruit and tomatoes when I was in my teens. (nine kids and a Dad who worked in the bush; we ate a lot and were super skinny to boot!) My Mum bought a pressure canner some years after I left home. I did lots of canning for my family, too, when we were somewhere that I could get the fruit and also store the jars. I hope to get back to all that one day . . .
      Glad you’re safety conscious; botulism is no joke and any food contaminated with it doesn’t smell or taste bad, so it’s impossible to detect. ~ Linne

      • I know that botulism can cause a mis-shapen can but that won’t apply at home. Crazy to think that some people inject what is otherwise a deadly bacteria into their wrinkles only to look younger (or less emotional).
        My apologies for leaving that wonderful nation of the Commonwealth, sister Canada off the list. Would it be acceptable if I referenced canning as the method of preserving most common within the continent of North America?

        • Linne says:

          Nah, just ‘Canadian’ will do . . . πŸ˜›
          I have a lot of good friends down there, including one of my sisters; I love the land itself; but the politics, especially when they see us as just a pantry to be raided at will (with our politicians happily handing over the keys!), well . . . I won’t dump my ranting here; won’t do any good; now if words could be added to the compost pile . . .

          I was in Washington, DC once for a week (stayed at the hostel for $10 US a night and walked to everything I wanted to see except Arlington; for that I took the ‘train’. Here we call it the LRT – Light Rapid Transit – not sure what it is down your way); walking with a group to see the theatre where Lincoln was assassinated, I got into a conversation with an American man and his daughter. He recognized my accent (not to mention the frequent ‘eh’s) and stated that (a) he did not see any difference between his country and mine [reminded me of a man telling me once that there was no real difference between men and women; but that’s another digression . . .], then (b) that the countries would both do better if they joined to form one country. I looked him right in the eye and said “I agree; Canada could use more provinces”. The look on his face . . . priceless doesn’t come near it! So since then I refer often to the Future Province of Oregon or the FP of California, etc. Lots of fun . . .

          BTW, after my little bit on botulism, I feel I must come clean and confess that when we lived in an old log house with no power or running water, I ‘canned’ several dozens of two-quart sealers of blackberries by baking them in the oven; this in spite of written warnings (from the ‘modern’ age) not to do so; I was very careful and left them in longer than earlier recipes had recommended. We are all still here and the berries were delicious! They were fairly acidic, though, and I did use sugar (which I think adds to the acidity), so who knows . . . I did the regular quart sizes in a ‘canner’, really a kettle intended for making larger quantities of jam, but the two-quart size wouldn’t fit under the lid.

          If you want to see the house as it is these days (stripped of the two-story side porch, the dining/kitchen/mudroom addition that ran the width and more along the north side), check out:

          There are pictures of it as it was originally that are much like when we lived there for five or so years at:

          When we were there, the orchard was very old, but still producing. I loved it from the first time we drove by to friends’ where we were staying for a while. I couldn’t believe my luck at actually getting to live there for free (for caretaking the five square miles of property; basically, making sure no crazies burnt the place down, etc.)

          This is the place where I carried dirt to make the long raised beds. I have such good memories of this homestead; I could have lived there forever. We were married in the living room by our minister; another great memory, even though we divorced long ago. A good man, to whom I owe much. And the one who introduced me to John Prine and his songs. I’ll have to add some of them to my music page.

          Well, enough for now. Have a great day! ~ Linne

          • Jam will keep without canning or even water bathing. I know, I’ve got some excess left over from strawberry jam gifts I’d made for Christmas 2011. It’s still fine. πŸ˜€
            Canada and America sound like they have much the same relationship as New Zealand and Australia. Or Tasmania and the mainland for that matter. πŸ˜‰
            I’m very careful with low acid foods (paranoid) and only slightly less so with water bathing (just terrified) but I think if you are sensible with hygeine then it should be ok. I try to be sensible.

  4. Oh, and I have home bottled pineapple here too. πŸ˜‰

  5. The Life of Clare says:

    What an adventure! I didn’t realise that there was a difference between the way you preserve fruit and vegetables. I’m still waiting for out chickens to gift us their first egg, but at just under 18 weeks, I’m not holding my breath just yet.

    • The difference in preserving is to do with the acid levels. Fruits are higher acid foods and the acid safely allows bottling as the acids kill or inhibit the bacteria but low acid foods need to be safely processed.
      Which breed of chicken do you have? Many will start laying around 18-20 weeks unless it’s a slow maturing bird like Orpingtons or Dorkings so you may well be able to hold that breath very soon. πŸ™‚

  6. Linne says:

    Thought I’d share my favourite way of eating corn with you: I first had this at my friend Hellen’s home in lower mainland BC. She came from Finland when she was 20 and much of what she cooks/bakes/prepares is also of Finnish origin. Anyway, she makes a bed of cooked rice on a wide plate or soup plate and flattens it with a spoon (I like Lundberg’s Brown Basmati rice best for this; neither of us has ever tried it with white rice, but it would probably work). Next she chops tomatoes, onions and English long cucumbers (unpeeled), mixes them and makes a bed on top of the rice, also flat. Then she holds a steamed cob of corn vertically in the centre of the plate and uses a sharp knife to slice the kernels from the cob. Add salt, pepper, chopped garlic, whatever you like, and enjoy! it was one of our favourite lunches when I would visit. Usually it was accompanied by her famous rye bread (made from flour freshly ground in her basement and mixed with her sourdough starter and a bit of water. Hellen mixes her bread dough in a 2.5 gallon bucket, using her hand to mix and knead the dough – she has the strongest arms of any woman I know!). For this lunch, the rye bread is usually topped with a swipe of butter and slices of soft white cheese. Our snow is beginning to melt and now you have me thinking of harvest time! Good memories, though; one of the many reasons I visit here so much . . . ~ Linne

    • Ok, I’m drooling… Apart from the cucumber. Never could stand them. πŸ™‚ We use brown rice exclusively here including in risotto. It takes a bit longer to cook but it still works. My kids love corn best on the cob and Orik loves peas and corn steamed. He will eat each piece bit by bit and now tries loading it onto a spoon first. It’s very cute.
      Your snow sounds very romantic and wonderful to me, Particularly as I sit here sweating through 35C degrees. I’m sure the reality is far more prosaic and that you’re as over your snow as we are of our stinking heat.

      • Linne says:

        Do you know, I can hardly wait for the ‘Star Gate’ to be sold publicly; you know, the one where you step into the glowing circle, think of your destination and step out again! I would come help you weed and carry water. I’d clean out the chook house, too! And milk your goats (never mind that they haven’t quite materialized yet; I can see them now . . . I’d love reading to your kidlets, too. That and creating stuff are my favourite child-friendly activities. Wouldn’t it be great, to visit friends and family far away or go on ‘vacation’ for a day or two (or get relief at night from the extreme heat or cold, then go home in the morning)?

        I AM over the cold; I don’t mind -6 or so, but we are expecting lows down to -17 again this coming week, after a very spring-like couple of days just before the weekend. But I’ve learned not to be tricked by those teasers of warm days; here, we are north enough that it has snowed in every month of the year; of course in the summer months snow doesn’t stay long, but still . . . and I have to admit, too, that I don’t much care for extreme heat, either; if I’m too hot, I want to just lie around and read or snooze; if too cold, I want to huddle in my blankets and read/snooze. Spring and Autumn suit me much more. I do know it’s physiologically good for us to go through extemes; keeps the body working much better and much longer. But why do I have to be AWAKE for it? Oh well, whinging again . . .

        It’s getting later and I’m typing longer . . . crazy,, eh?

        CUL8R. ~ Linne

        • Oh, to travel by teleport. You’re invited any time! All of the above need doing too. πŸ˜‰ I’ll make you a hot chocolate if it’s cold or a refreshing fruit smoothie if it’s hot and we can chew the cud whilst we work. πŸ˜€ I would simply LOVE to sit down and totally pick your brain!

  7. Emma says:

    Hi ive just stumbled across your great page ☺ i live in country Victoria aswell and my goal is to own some self sufficient acreage.
    I grew up with mum making jars and jars of Fowlers Vacola fruits and tomatoes and i have just started to use (mum’s ) outfit and am looking to buy one for myself. I’m so excited that you use both methods as im really not sure what to do? I understand the need for preserving low acid foods differently and ive discovered a presto unit that offers pressure canning as well as water bathing. Im really unsure what to do as mum has ALWAYS told me that the electric (waterbath) system is SOOOOO much easier than a stovetop unit. All you do is set it and walk away. I must admit tho mum has never pressure canned anything. I wish the pressure units were also electronic. I was hoping i could just buy one unit that would be multipurpose but if its stove top im really not sure? I need your expert advice.

    On another note, do you make shelf save canned cakes/puddings in your preserver? I love this idea but xan only find Christmas pudding recipes.
    Thank you i can’t wait to hear from you

    • Hi Emma. Thank you. πŸ™‚
      The pressure canner is able to water bath but the waterbath (Vacola) cannot pressure can. If you only want 1 unit, the pressure canner will do both jobs (I have the Presto). The other advantage of the stove-top is that if needed you can use it on a wood stove in winter or a camping stove outside to not overheat the house. I plan to try it on a rocket stove too.
      I do agree that the electric units are easier though and can also be used as an urn.
      My bottling runs are usually several batches so I rarely get the chance to leave my stove-top unit. I’m filling the 2nd batch as I process the 1st.
      With pressure canning too, you need to watch the gauge until it reaches pressure, then start timing. The time it takes differs based on your altitude too so there’s no generic amount of time.
      I’ve not bottled puddings although I might try it later this year. I found a perfect recipe for a gluten-free sugar free boiled/steamed pudding which we love so I might bottle some up. Use a wide mouth jar like #31 or #28 (the actual “pudding jar”) or you’ll never get it out. πŸ™‚
      I hope this helps but only you know what will work best for you. πŸ™‚

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