> >
September 20, 2023 10 minute READ

Putting Up Your Harvest

tags At Home | Gardening | Recipes
locations All
Getting Ready to Can

For many not so long ago, canning and freezing summer’s bounty was a lifeline. The beans, corn, squash, cucumbers, and whatever else was coming in from the garden weren’t meant just to be enjoyed as they are harvested but to put food on the table during the winter when “pickin’s were slim.” Now, canning or freezing is more of a tradition than a necessity, but there is still a certain sense of pride and accomplishment that goes along with it. 

My dad grew up on a farm and, if he had his druthers, would have been a full-time farmer. In his words, “I love it.” But in reality, making a living as a farmer is a hard job, especially as a small farmer. He’s told me tales of fields on mountainsides that I can’t imagine having anything grown on, but they were planted in tobacco, potatoes, cabbage, or tomatoes and worked with a combination of tractors and real horsepower. I remember the last time I helped in the cabbage patch, the market rate for a 50-pound sack of cabbage was around $2. (Like I said, it’s hard to make a living as a farmer.) And the best part of the whole day was getting to eat the cabbage stalk fresh in the field as the cabbage heads were being cut. 

As a kid, I certainly wouldn’t define peeling apples or breaking beans as fun. Now, I have a totally different outlook on the effort, and I refer to it as therapeutic. It’s time to slow down and get into a Zen-like zone. I still rely on Dad for my canning vegetables. My tiny backyard garden doesn’t produce enough at one time to put up much, but my neighbors benefit from extra tomatoes, squash, peppers, and beans. For the most part, I stick to hot water bath canning on my own. It’s easy to put up salsa, apple butter, tomato soup, pickles, and tomato juice. I spend time with my dad to can green beans - we can have two pressure canners going in his basement.  

If you’re interested in getting started with canning, jump in feet first. It’s really not that mysterious or difficult, you just have to be willing to put in a little time and work, but the return is better than store-bought, at least in my opinion. 

Must Haves 

Outside of what you are going to can, the list of supplies to get started is short for must haves – but there are a few nice to haves that will make the process easier. 

Hot water bath canningA canner – A hot water bath canner is relatively inexpensive and can be used for fruits and vegetables that are high in acidity, like tomatoes and apples. When you are considering a purchase, look for one that has a flat bottom. That is a very important consideration, especially if you are working on a glass stovetop. Matter of fact, most canning references recommend not canning on a glass stovetop because of the weight of the canner. In that case, you can purchase a portable single burner that can be used on your countertop. 

Jars – Half-pint, pint, and quart jars are popular sizes and can be used over and over again as long as the rim doesn’t have chips in it. You can purchase your cans or find them at thrift shops or even save some from store-bought spaghetti sauce and pickles. 

Flats and rings – These are a little more plentiful than they were a few years ago. Always use new flats, but your rings can be removed once the jars are sealed. Wash and dry them for future uses. 

Canning set – The set includes a funnel, which will help keep your rims and the outside of the jars clean(er) when filling them; a canning lid wand to pick up your flats from their hot water bath; a set of tongs; a jar wrench for tightening or loosening lid; and a jar lifter, which will help move your jars from the hot water bath or pressure canner for cooling. The jar lifter can also be purchased individually if you’ve misplaced yours.  

Nice to Haves 

These items don’t need to be a part of your “starter kit,” but if you’re working by yourself or even have a few other hands in the kitchen helping out, they are nice to have.  

Apple Peeling Machine - We used to spend hours under the carport peeling transparent apples to freeze. They are tiny and often misshapen, but boy, are they tasty! I might peel enough transparents now for a “mess” of applesauce, but if I’m going to can apples, I’ve gone a different route now with more traditional Staymans, Winesaps, Limbertwigs, or Wolf Rivers. The apple peeling machine speeds up the peeling process and cores apples at the same time. You may, from time to time, need to clean up a spot or two.  

Jalapeno Corer – This nifty device is great for making jalapeno poppers and for scooping out the pith and seeds to make salsa.    

Measuring Spoons – I just saw these myself! And I’m heading down to the store to pick up a set. Why? I just made some tomato jam, and the rectangular shape of these spoons would have made the measuring of my spices so much easier and neater.  

An Apron – Things will be splattering everywhere, so it pays to put on an apron to protect your clothes, but there’s another reason, too. You’re going to be working through many different processes while you’re canning, and you’ll be washing your hands A LOT or needing to dry or wipe your hands A LOT. So, if you wrap the apron ties around your waist, you’ll have a convenient place to drape a towel for easy access.  


Tomato PieMy dad is a great resource for lots of questions, but even he doesn’t know the answer to some of the ones I dream up. Plus, he may not answer the phone if everyone calls! Here are some great references to get started with your canning adventures. 

The Cooperative Extensions in your state have great information in many different areas – gardening, animal husbandry, beekeeping, and canning. Some will offer classes throughout the year, and if you remember, they also have plant sales in the spring for apple trees, blueberry bushes, blackberry and raspberry sets, strawberry plants, and more. Be sure to search for the extension that serves your county for the best advice. Here are links to the cooperative extensions in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.   

The National Center for Home Food Preservation is another place to dive into a wealth of information. It’s a great place to get your feet wet and to pick up tips and recipes. In addition to canning and freezing, there are tips for dehydrating, sun drying, and pickling and fermenting.  

Visit with your relatives and neighbors. If you are new to canning, one of the best ways to pick up ways to do it is OJT – on the job training. Your relatives and neighbors will appreciate having another hand in the kitchen and you’ll enjoy the conversations while you’re waiting for things to come to a boil or cool down. 

Recipes for enjoying  

Tomato Pie 

1 pie shell* 
3 cups tomatoes, chopped (reserve a few slices for a garnish) 
½ cup onion, chopped 
¼ cup fresh basil, sliced 
2 cups cheese, grated (colby jack and mozzarella is a good combination) 
½ cup mayonnaise (you can also divide into ¼ cup mayonnaise and ¼ cup Greek yogurt) 
1 teaspoon hot sauce 
Black Pepper, to taste 

*If you use a 9-inch frozen pie shell, it will fit into a gallon freezer bag.  

Prick the bottom of the pie shell and bake at 350° for 10 minutes. If you have pie weights, this is a good time to use ‘em. Remove from oven. 

Salt your chopped tomatoes in a colander and allow them to drain.  

In a medium mixing bowl, stir together grated cheese, mayonnaise, hot sauce, and pepper.  

Layer chopped onions in the pie shell, then add chopped tomatoes and sprinkle chopped basil. Spread cheese mixture on top. Decorate the top with a couple of tomato slices and perhaps a basil leaf. Bake at 350° for 30-45 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is melted and toasty. Allow the pie to cool. If you double the recipe, you can freeze your second pie. Allow it to come to room temperature, and then slide it inside a gallon freezer bag. Label and freeze. To enjoy later, thaw, cover with foil, and bake on a baking sheet for about 20 minutes or until heated through.  

Tomato Soup 

½ bushel tomatoes (25 pounds) 
1 ½ cup sugar 
2 tablespoons canning salt 
1/8 teaspoon black pepper 
4 teaspoons onion salt 
4 teaspoons celery salt 
Garlic powder, to taste 
1 pound butter 
2 cups flour 

Wash, core, and quarter tomatoes. In a large stockpot, cook tomatoes until soft. You’ll need to have another couple of containers (Dutch ovens or large stockpots) handy for the next step. Carefully dip out tomatoes and process in a blender or food processor. Take care to avoid hot splashing tomato juice. Return processed juice to stockpot. In a large skillet, melt the butter and remove from heat. Stir in the flour until it forms a paste without lumps. Dip out some juice and add it to the paste. Keep adding juice until the paste becomes thin. Return the mixture to the juice and bring it to a full boil.  

Have your hot jars ready. Fill jars leaving about ½ inch head space and put on flats and rings. Process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes (pints) or 20 minutes (quarts). This recipe makes approximately 20 pints or 10 quarts and tastes as good or better than a famous maker’s tomato soup.  

Simple Salsa 

8 cups tomatoes, peeled and chopped 
3 cups onions, finely chopped 
1-2 cups green peppers, chopped 
1-2 cups jalapeno peppers, finely chopped 
1 cup apple cider vinegar (you can substitute bottled lemon juice for the vinegar for a milder taste) 
3 ½ teaspoons canning salt 

Mix all ingredients in a large stockpot and bring to a boil for 30 minutes. Fill jars with ½ inch headspace and process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes for pints. 

Good luck and have fun! 



About Sheri Moretz

Sheri and her dadSheri works in the Mast Store Marketing Department as our Storyteller and defacto historian. Not only is she interested in "history" history, but she enjoys keeping up the tradition with Appalachian foodways. Relating to this blog she shares, "While we didn't live on the farm growing up, my Dad's family farm was only about a 10-minute drive away, so we spent lots of time there with my grandparents and aunt. I remember helping in the hayfield, putting up tobacco, and the first mess of my favorite dish, Killed Lettuce and Onions, in the spring. I didn't appreciate all of the lessons I was learning at that time, but I certainly do now, especially the time spent with family putting up the harvest." 

join catalog mailing list tell me more