This Week's Adventure: Harvesting

The greenhouse at the Lyons Farmette filled with cucumbers, tomatoes, and tons of other farm-fresh goodies.

The greenhouse at the Lyons Farmette filled with cucumbers, tomatoes, and tons of other farm-fresh goodies.

I'm really domesticated these days. Like, I cook meals for myself at least once a week. My cooking hasn't even landing me in the hospital yet, so I just keep doing it. I recently had the opportunity to interview Chef Bradford Heap-- owner of SALT the Bistro and Colterra as well David Asbury-- owner and operator of Full Circle Certified Organic Farms on tips for eating healthy and supporting local farms during the cold-weather months. Both men are incredibly passionate about buying local, supporting local, and harvesting the best, organic ingredients whether it's for a meal out on the town, or at your own kitchen table. I was super inspired by our chats-- so I got a little crazy. I spent an afternoon filling up bags and bags of big, red tomatoes at Munson Farms, and stocked up on things like garlic, farm-fresh eggs, and mixed greens at Cure Organic Farm. I got a little carried away. It happens. I unloaded my massive farmstand haul on my kitchen counter and stared at pile of colorful produce patiently waiting for me to figure out a game plan. The problem is-- I didn't have one. I had no clue what I was doing. So I did what any other helpless human being would do. I cheated. I sought out a canning class at the Lyons Farmette, and let the professionals teach me the ways of harvesting fall produce for the winter months.  The Farmette holds a variety of different classes each month (click here for a full list), each classes highlighting a different part of farm life. During my class, I wandered the Farmette grounds, harvesting cucumbers and apples that would eventually become tasty pickles and homemade applesauce. The folks at the Farmette taught us how to safely can your fall harvest bounty. I left the class feeling a little cocky, and ambitious. So I got to work. I canned some basic bread and butter pickles and made a big ol' batch of tomato and basil sauce that I can't wait to bust out in a month-- just to remind myself that even an old dog can learn some new tricks.

Check out these tips on water bath canning-- and go find a farm. Seriously. It's not only good for your health, but harvesting and canning you own food is pretty good on the ego as well.


  1. READ through recipe and instructions.  Assemble equipment and ingredients. Follow guidelines for recipe preparation, jar size, preserving method and processing time.
  2. CHECK jars, lids and bands for proper functioning. Jars with nicks, cracks, uneven rims or sharp edges may prevent sealing or cause jar breakage. The underside of lids should not have scratches or uneven or incomplete sealing compound as this may prevent sealing. Bands should fit on jars. Wash jars, lids and bands in hot, soapy water. Rinse well. Dry bands.
  3. HEAT home canning jars in hot water, not boiling, until ready for use. Fill a large saucepan or stockpot half-way with water. Place jars in water (filling jars with water from the saucepan will prevent flotation). Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Keep jars hot until ready for use. You may also use a dishwasher to wash and heat jars. Keeping jars hot prevents them from breaking when hot food is added. Leave lids and bands at room temperature for easy handling.  
  4. PREPARE boiling water bath canner by filling half-full with water and keep water at a simmer while covered with lid until jars are filled and placed in canner. Be sure your rack in resting on the rim of the canner or on the bottom, depending on the type of rack you are using. A boiling water bath canner is simply a large, deep saucepot equipped with a lid and a rack. The pot must be large enough to fully surround and immerse the jars in water by 1 to 2 inches and allow for the water to boil rapidly with the lid on. If you don’t have a rack designed for home preserving, use a cake cooling rack or extra bands tied together to cover the bottom of the pot.  
  5. PREPARE tested preserving recipe using fresh produce and other quality ingredients.
  6. REMOVE hot jar from hot water, using a Jar Lifter, emptying water inside jar. Fill jar one at a time with prepared food using a Jar Funnel leaving headspace recommended in recipe (1/4 inch for soft spreads such as jams and jellies and fruit juices; 1/2 inch for fruits, pickles, salsa, sauces, and tomatoes). Remove air bubbles, if stated in recipe, by sliding the Bubble Remover & Headspace Tool or rubber spatula between the jar and food to release trapped air and ensure proper headspace during processing. Repeat around jar 2 to 3 times.
  7. CLEAN mason jar rim and threads of jar using a clean, damp cloth to remove any food residue. Center lid on jar allowing sealing compound to come in contact with the jar rim.  Apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip tight. Place filled jars in canner until recipe is used or canner is full. Lower rack with jars into water. Make sure water covers jars by 1 to 2 inches.
  8. PLACE lid on water bath canner. Bring water to a full rolling boil.  Begin processing time.
  9. PROCESS jars in the boiling water for the processing time indicated in tested preserving recipe, adjusting for altitude. When processing time is complete, turn off the heat and remove the canner lid. Allow jars to stand in canner for 5 minutes to get acclimated to the outside temperature.  
  10. REMOVE jars from canner and set upright on a towel to prevent jar breakage that can occur from temperature differences. Leave jars undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours. Bands should not be retightened as this may interfere with the sealing process.
  11. CHECK jar lids for seals. Lids should not flex up and down when center is pressed. Remove bands. Try to lift lids off with your fingertips. If the lid cannot be lifted off, the lid has a good seal. If a lid does not seal within 24 hours, the product can be immediately reprocessed or refrigerated. Clean mason jars and lids. Label and share then store in a cool, dry, dark place up to 1 year.