Garden to Pantry

Canned heirloom tomatoesD'Anjou pears poached in brandy, vanilla and star anise

I learned to garden from my mother, who grew and bought organic before anyone else even knew what that really was, other than visions of long haired hippies and granola.  My mom had a large vegetable garden, several fruit trees and even raised chickens and pigs. I was lucky to have been raised with such wholesome food, but as is typical, I didn’t appreciate it back then.  When our mom would bring platters of food to the table and announce that “everything is from our garden”, we would groan and roll our eyes.  Now, however, I understand her sense of pride and accomplishment from a job well done.

My husband and I are fortunate to live on an acre and a half property that includes a vegetable garden, fruit orchard and an olive grove, most of which we planted ourselves.  The only problem with growing your own food is what to do with it all.  Other than my citrus trees, which seem to bear fruit all year long, most fruits and many vegetables are ripe at the same time, so you have more apples or tomatoes than you can use and they end up going to waste. If you don’t have space to grow your own produce, you can still take advantage of seasonal deals at farmers markets or even just your local market.

Several years ago, I decided to try my hand at canning.  I had two trees loaded with Santa Rosa plums that were falling off the trees and rolling down the hill.  I was worried that I wouldn’t do it right and people would get sick from eating my preserves.  My mom confided that “canning the first time is intimidating but that after that you’ll be looking around to see what you can ‘put up’ next”.  She was certainly right about that!

LimoncelloMamas Hot Sauce

Preserved goods are wonderful to have on hand and make great gifts.  I love to make everything look pleasing to the eye, and I love clever packaging, so I created my own “label” years ago when I started curing olives and I use a version of this label for everything I make. In fact, I chose this blog design because it has the same colors and feel of my label.   I think a nice label makes your homemade applesauce even more special and gives you a chance to personalize. has labels in pretty much every size and shape you might need and they offer a downloadable template which is very easy to use.  The labels I use the most often are label #WL-375WG-100 which is a 3.3333″ round label which is the perfect size for labeling a wide mouth jar or a bottle of Limoncello.  Label #OL5375WX is a 2″ round label that I use for labeling gift bags or small mouth jars (not a perfect fit but it still looks nice). Click HERE for an example.

My first  experience with canning was Santa Rosa plum jam, which was delicious.  I spoon it into non-fat yogurt for breakfast. Yum!  After that successful venture, I moved on to canning applesauce, Asian pear butter, hot pepper jelly, chopped heirloom tomatoes, and most recently, poached pears in vanilla sauce with star anise (very pretty).  I have made several batches of Limoncello from my very prolific Meyer Lemon tree and I usually have a batch in one stage or another.  I have about two dozen olive trees and I’ve been curing the olives in a salt water brine for years.  I’m interested in different ways to preserve the abundance from my garden and recently have been experimenting with drying a variety of chili peppers to make hot pepper flakes.  Here are links to some recipes and directions.  Cheers!    Limoncello   Preserved Lemons

Dried hot peppers hot pepper jelly

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