Why I Do Much of My Canning in the Winter

posted by Andrea | 02/16/2015
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canning in the winter

I canned 36+ quarts of applesauce this weekend! Yes, you read that right… Valentines Day weekend…February, in Michigan.

It’s freezing cold here in Michigan (-5F this past weekend) and snow is covering the ground — however, our local orchards sell apples until Valentines Day, and they usually offer a deep discount the last week of sales (yes, I got a great deal!)

In the next month or so, I’m planning to can another batch of Strawberry Jam and Triple-berry Jam — using fresh-from-the-farm berries I picked myself this summer (and have been storing in the freezer until I have the time to make jam).

It might sound crazy to be canning in the middle of winter IN MICHIGAN! But that’s usually how I do it because that’s when I have the time and that’s when I’m cooped up inside anyway.

Yes, there are some things I still need to can in the fall — like peaches, pears, and tomatoes to name a few. But any berries that can be frozen or any heartier fruits and veggies that can be stored in cold storage for months can all wait for me to have more time in the cold winter months.

I don’t do nearly as much canning as I did when we were first married, probably because I don’t have a huge garden like I used to either. However, EVERY SINGLE TIME I mention something about canning or if someone sees a jar of home-canned produce in my fridge, I always hear comments like “I don’t know how you make time for that…”

And for me, the trick to making time for canning (something I actually do enjoy and something my family LOVES eating) is to save as much as I can until the winter months.

That way, I don’t feel like I’m “stuck inside” when the weather is nice and the kids want to play outside. And I don’t feel like I’m “wasting daylight hours” because it’s currently completely dark by 6:30pm.

Canning in the winter has worked wonderfully for me for so many reasons — and since I’ve never actually written a post about WHEN I can, I figured it might be useful for some of you who would like to get started canning but just don’t have the time in the spring, summer, and fall when you’d rather be outside enjoying the nice weather, going on vacation, or any number of other activities we can’t do in the winter.

And for the record, you don’t need to buy your fruits and veggies from the farmer’s market or a local orchard to make it worth your time and money to can. I’ve done small batches of microwave jam and my 8-minute microwave applesauce with store bought fresh and frozen produce and had fabulous results — so if you’re itching to try a little canning this winter, don’t let the lack of farm-fresh produce stop you from trying!

Want More Canning Resources?

Here’s a link to ALL the posts I’ve writing on canning and preserving.

Here’s the exact method I use for canning applesauce.

Here’s a post that shares my tips to get ready for the canning season (along with the specific tools I use)

Do you can in the winter or am I the only crazy one?

canning

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30 comments

  1. Ivanka

    03/02/2015

    I love to make blood orange marmalade and preserved lemons in the winter.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    wow, both of those recipes sound amazing! yum!!

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  2. beth

    02/20/2015

    Once you have made your applesauce, Andrea, how do you process it?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Just in a hot water bath canner for 20 mintues

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  3. Annette Robinson

    02/17/2015

    Sounds like a great idea to can in the winter! We’re always doing it in the heat of the summer. What is a good price for the apples you found for your applesauce? We live in Oregon so I am just curious if they are around our prices or not. Thinking maybe I should look into this also!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Annette!
    I can get “seconds” apples (or ones that aren’t perfect) for about $7-8 per half bushel — so that’s a good price around here.

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  4. Diana

    02/17/2015

    It’s also a great way to add a little heat to your home when it’s cold out instead of adding more work to your A/C system!

    My only problem with saving strawberries to can in the winter is that we’ve probably eaten them all by then, in smoothies and thawed for yogurt… 😉

    We love our homemade applesauce too!

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  5. Grandma Ann

    02/16/2015

    Andrea – this sounds like a great time to can. Back in the day when our children were home we had a large garden and canned and froze fruits and vegetables. I only make jam now, but in those days, we didn’t have air conditioning and it was always so hot during the canning season. Good for you, in these very cold Michigan winters, what a great way to heat up the house.

    [Reply]

  6. Chris

    02/16/2015

    I canned tomato sauce in the winter a few years back. My tomatoes weren’t ripening at the same time so I froze them whole with the skins on in large freezer bags. Then in January when the weather was cold and miserable, I pulled them out of the freezer to can. The awesome thing I discovered was that I didn’t have to blanch them to get the skins off, they fell right off saving me a step. I also enjoyed it more because it was the perfect time to heat up the kitchen and house.

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    Tara Reply:

    This is brilliant too! My tomatoes never ripen enough at a time to can a whole batch. I’ve frozen my tomatoes a lot and just used them frozen for things like soup, but I never thought to can them after freezing! Great idea!

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  7. Melissa Q

    02/16/2015

    Canning in the winter (those things I can store until then) makes SO MUCH SENSE! I hate to heat up the house with the stove in the heat of dead-summer when all I want to do is be outside, too. Note to self – change the way you do things this year!

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  8. lydia @ frugaldebtfreelife

    02/16/2015

    So smart to save some of the fruit for the cooler months when you long for summer berries! Where we live the strawberries have already started producing and they are delicious.

    [Reply]

  9. Tara

    02/16/2015

    Andrea, you’re reminding me that I took your good idea from a previous post and mashed and froze my strawberries this past summer. They’re still in the deep freezer waiting to be made into jam. I will try to pull them out and get them all jammed up this week or next. 🙂

    I’ve never waited this late to buy apples from local orchards. My favorite local organic apple farmer seems to be in high demand and I always assumed he sold out long before February. I’ll have to ask him for sure. I do buy seconds at almost as good of a price as you seem to be getting them for, so I guess even if I have to do them during the fall, I’m still getting a decent deal. We just try to get the sauce made before the holidays start to set in and it’s not too bad.

    You’re brilliant for canning right now if you can get the produce you want at the prices you want. Happy applesauce eating!

    [Reply]

  10. Erica Martin

    02/16/2015

    You may have said this before, but where in Michigan do you live? My husband and I were up there this past weekend (his family lives in Livonia), so we got a nice taste of the winter y’all are having…it was -7 degrees when we left yesterday morning!!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    We live in West MI — I’m not exactly sure where Livonia is, but I’m SURE it was cold!! Save travels!

    [Reply]

    Erica Martin Reply:

    Livonia isn’t too far from Ann Arbor and Detroit – the hotel we stayed at was in Ann Arbor.

    [Reply]

  11. Kristia

    02/16/2015

    I don’t can, but I have a food mill and I make applesauce that I store in the freezer. The orchard closes the end of February until spring so they have an apple sale during the month that I take advantage of. I made about 12 quarts of my applesauce while watching the Super Bowl.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I have a food mill too — aren’t they awesome for applesauce! Dave’s mom does freezer applesauce too 🙂

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  12. Victoria stewart

    02/16/2015

    I have never responded to any blog post in the past but had to today. Just did strawberry jam myself this morning!!! We had someone bring fresh from farm in Florida yesterday. I do same thing with grape juice for grape jelly. Freeze until downtime in the winter. Love your blog. You have realistic and practical blog posts. Thank you!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yay for strawberry jam!! And thanks so much for your kind words (and your first-time comment!)

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  13. Amber Woods

    02/16/2015

    Hey Andrea, just curious what a good deal on apples would be? There is an Amish community not far from here that sells apples by the bushel, but I don’t know what a good price would be. How many bushels do you usually buy to do applesauce for your family for a year? I have two kiddos approximately the same age and sex as yours. They too eat tons of applesauce. I currently buy it at Aldi.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Well, for me, a good deal is $15-$20 a bushel — but those are usually “seconds” which means they aren’t perfect looking (but who cares for sauce). I usually can at least 2 – 2.5 bushels for 1 year of applesauce and we go through about 1 quart a week (my kids actually won’t eat applesauce though!)

    [Reply]

  14. Kristen @ Joyfully Thriving

    02/16/2015

    I haven’t canned in the winter (yet!) but I love this idea! I’m looking forward to the time when our apple trees are producing so I can can lots of applesauce – and other apple goodies. I am spending more time in my kitchen during the winter, baking homemade bread and making our own yogurt now.

    [Reply]

    Amber Woods Reply:

    Kristen, do you use the same recipe as Andrea for your yogurt? I tried it, but it came out really runny, almost like buttermilk.

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    Liane Reply:

    Amber I found some milk that is ultra pasteurized won’t make good yogurt. I always start my yogurt with organic full fat milk that is minimally processed. I also do it in my GE profile oven set on Proof. If it is runny you can strain it in a chinois with u bleached cheese cloth and then save the watery part for other things. I use my yogurt water in homemade ranch dressing to thin out the homemade mayo I make. You can also add it to anything that has milk in it or cheese except don’t put it in your coffee accidentally or you will be in for a Suprise.

    My strained stuff is a lot like Greek yogurt, and I have actually used Greek organic yogurt as a starter.

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  15. Debbie W.

    02/16/2015

    Great post, Andrea! I have been wanting to can some more, but definitely have been held back by the seeming necessity to do it in the summer/fall when there is so much else going on. This post gives me some new alternatives to think about.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes! Definitely try it in the winter some time!

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  16. Jennifer

    02/16/2015

    I was just wondering – if you have to store a lot of produce for months in the freezer before you can it, is it still worth it to do the canning? Obviously you are also MAKING applesauce and jam when you can things, but since preservation at room temperature is a large part of the purpose of canning, is there less of a point if you have freezer space and are storing large quantities there anyway?

    I ask because usually I am rushing to can in the fall because I have tons of food that has nowhere to go! So I think of canning as a desperate preservation method.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Hey Jennifer — I actually don’t have to store much produce at all. I just buy it in the winter when I’m ready to can. The local orchards around here were still open through last week (I think I mentioned this in the post) so literally purchased my apples on Wednesday and made the applesauce on Friday and Saturday.

    As for my berries, I have about 4 small 3-cup containers of smashed berries all measured out and ready for making jam. Once the jam is made, it will take up considerably more space than the 4 small freezer containers — so it’s still definitely worth it for me to take up a tiny amount of freezer space for a few months and then do much of my canning when it’s not so hot and I don’t have nearly as much other things to do.

    Also, right now I don’t can because I’m desperate to use up produce — I just do it because we REALLY REALLY like the flavor of home canned food versus store bought 🙂

    [Reply]

    Liane Reply:

    Just make sure that the apples come from an orchard and not a grocery store or a place like Costco. We live in prime apple growing territory here in northern California and apples peak in October. Our trees are Gravensteins and they are the earliest apple so I end up freezing them since its in the 100s when we pick them. It really depends a lot on where you live. If apples don’t grow where you live they could be ancient and fumigated or worse from some foreign country. I love going to the orchards and farms. We live in the middle of the best produce in the US here and there are literally hundreds of farms only 20 min from the door.

    If you have to get them at a grocery store ask the produce person where they are from, if they are fresh and if they were grown in the USA. If We don’t support our local farmers like Andrea is doing then we deserve to eat inferior food.

    That said I know there are some ladies who follow this blog who live “down under” where the apple season is opposite ours. Those apples are just wonderful if you are an Aussie but not if they were on a boat for eons to the US then quarantined and then trucked to a store.

    More info here:

    http://www.foodrenegade.com/your-apples-year-old/

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