Thursday, August 1, 2019

Still worth it?

A quart of hard work ruined.

Even if you don't do much homesteading, gardening or farming, there are times in your life when you have to ask yourself if whatever you're doing around your home is still worth the work or not. If you have raised kids and eventually move on to that Empty Nest stage of your life, you usually have to re-examine everything you are doing -- how you're cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, and even vacationing -- because while you weren't watching, your life moved onto its next phase somehow, and it all needs re-evaluation.

This is where I've been with canning the last few years. This morning, a quart jar of relish broke inside the canner, which happens sometimes (the newer quart Mason jars are usually only good for about five years before this happens), but which was very frustrating, as it represented several hours of hard work, come to naught.

Is it still worth it?

Too bad it took a quart of ruined relish for me to start pondering whether or not I actually still need that much relish stored up in the pantry. Like most people, I tend to just keep doing the same things I've always done until it becomes impractical for some reason, and then I start re-thinking whether it's needed or not. 

So after cleaning up the canner and thinking about things, I've decided that, for the time being, I'm still saying yes to canning. BUT, it's a modified yes. If it's something I can put up in pint jars, like strawberry jam, apple pie filling, blackberry syrup, etc. it's definitely worth it. Pickle relish is also still worth it -- in smaller jars. But quarts of things? Not really what is practical or needed anymore for our household of two, broken jars or not. 

So in thinking of ideas I can use to supplement our pantry in other homegrown ways, one thought I had was starting to make my own mayonnaise. I've got the eggs, and if I'm not tethered to a water bath canner filled with quarts of tomatoes all summer long, I also have the time. One other thing I've already started doing is switching our dog over to completely homemade dog food and treats, which I've wanted to do for a long time. But I'm pretty sure I can find other things that will make us more eco-friendly and healthy plus save us money if I re-order my thinking just a bit.

I'll still keep those quart jars around, though, as they're such brilliant multi-purpose containers, holding everything from flowers to leftovers to frozen broth. So the quart jars I have left will get a break from the literal pressure of canning, and I catch a break, too, in terms of workload. Less pressure on all of us. 

That's a win for everyone, I'd say.

Mason jars -- still the Swiss Army knife of household living, even without the canning.


  1. Same, on cooking quantities of food for we two. I have so many canning jars of various sizes and use the vast majority for storing bulk food from our local co-op and from Azure Standard (do you know of them? they are in OR!). So, my jars are full of beans, nuts, seeds, grains, raw cacao, popcorn, dried herbs, teas, etc., etc. Bonus is that they look so pretty in the pantry, and I can see immediately when to replenish. Also use jars for drinking glasses and vases.

    My big canning goal this year is to make my own fire-roasted tomatoes. I love the ones from Muir Glen, my go-to for all sauces and soups. But I want to make my own with homegrown, heirloom tomatoes.

    Didn't know about the limited lifespan of newer canning jars. Boo!

  2. Ya, when I was teaching one of the teachers who was retiring gave me her old quart jars, which she kept supplies in for her students. They were probably 30 years old at the time and man, were those jars thick and heavy compared to today's! Fire roasted tomatoes sounds absolutely wonderful, I buy mine at Trader Joes for use in albondigas. Let me know if you try making them, I'd love to hear if it works out!

  3. I have a couple of the old blue jars but I don't use them, will take a closer look.

    Here's hoping on the tomatoes! I'm sure I won't make as many as I'd like to have.

    1. Plus they shrink down so much when you cook them, since they're about 75 percent water. I made tomato paste once or twice....started with 20 pounds of tomatoes, ended up with one cup of paste haha.

    2. Oh, you're right... I've roasted huge trays of tomatoes only to gobble them up on crackers the minute I take them out of the oven. I might be buying a LOTTA tomatoes.

    3. The last time I canned without growing them myself I bought 30 pounds and it still was not enough! It gets expensive, but sometimes farmers market growers will cut you a discount on a flat of them.

  4. When we downsized to a condo, we sold or donated over half our stuff, which included mason jars since we would no longer have a garden. There is a community garden here, but honestly, we are just done with a lot of DIY. We like buying from the local farmers markets. It's a win-win. They do the work and we support them.

    Right now, our goal is to see as many national parks as possible. We love to hike and want to do as much as we can while we're still able.

    I've found that as I've passed through different phases of life, my interests have changed. I don't know if that's true for everyone, but it has been true for me.

  5. Good to see you, Molly! I agree with you, we do change priorities as we get older. Like you, and Christina above, I'd like to travel more. I think we'll have a garden for a long time, but the livestock aspect may go away. I currently have a very troublesome chicken who is breaking and eating eggs, and it's making it hard for me to imagine a housesitter coming in. It may be more drama than I can pay someone to deal with lol. Are you enjoying your condo and the freedom it's offering?