Admittedly, I am a gadget loving girl. I have almost every kitchen appliance out there, and if I don’t have it now, there’s a good chance I will soon. And while I have everyday favorites that I use a lot and are my bestest friends (looking at you, espresso machine!), today I want to highlight the appliances that I use the most around this time of year for preserving the food I grew in the garden.
Luckily, I use several different ways to store food for the winter, and oftentimes what I use depends on how much time I had in August and September (those months are typically when the bulk of the vegetables grown at my house are ripe and ready to process). Some years I can a lot, others it is a lot of freezing, and typically it is a mixture of the two.
The bulk of my garden’s abundance comes from tomatoes, which is by design. Our family loves pasta, pizza and more pasta, so typically I plant 6 – 8 tomato plants in order to put up a lot of sauce which typically carries us through the spring, sometimes the summer. The last few years, the bulk of my tomatoes have been paste tomatoes, however I cannot resist planting a big honker heirloom or two as well, even though we don’t eat a lot of fresh tomatoes (3 out of the 5 members of this household won’t touch fresh). I also have two large pear trees that produce a ton of fruit, however, I have yet to find a canning recipe I love, and don’t have anything I use other than some of the items below.
For processing tomato sauce, I use the heck out of these appliances (none of these are affiliate, mostly because we have no idea how that works):
- High quality knife and knife sharpener (this is the set I have)
- Heavy bottom stock pot
- Hand held blender
- Vacuum sealer
- Steam Canner
- Canning jars
Let’s be honest, we all have knives, of course we do. But I wanted to highlight using a good quality knife. Last year I got a nice set and I have really been able to tell a difference. It comes with a handheld sharpener that I oftentimes use each time I use my knife. I also have a very nice mechanical knife sharpener, which I use a few times a year on all of my knives. A sharp knife is key and I cannot recommend it enough!
A heavy bottom stock pot is also fairly common, but I wanted to stress it because it is a workhouse in the fall for me. Lots of times I just leave it on the stove after washing because I know I am going to use it again, likely tomorrow! It doesn’t have to be expensive, but a heavy bottom is critical.
The handheld blender is the newest weapon in my arsenal and the inspiration for this post. For the longest time I resisted getting one of these, I really didn’t think I needed it. I have a Vitamix and I don’t make a ton of soup or anything and didn’t really think it was necessary. However it might be the best $40 I spent 2 years ago!! I skip the whole peeling and deseeding step to tomato sauce now and throw giant chunks of tomatoes right into the pot. After cooking them down for maybe an hour, I swirl my kitchen-aid blender in and wowza, it smooths everything up! My husband hates chunky sauce and he has never ever noticed the difference, plus I don’t dirty up the giant blender or risk scalding myself when I pour a giant hot pot of sauce out! Everybody wins!!
A vacuum sealer is a workhorse in my kitchen all year long, since I shop often at Costco and frequently buy meat in bulk then seal it in smaller packages to freeze. This is basically the same only with sauce. Some years (like this year) I am too busy for the extra step of canning so just freeze it instead. The only problem I have with it is all the plastic use. Canning is definitely better environmentally, so that is a consideration.
Steam canning is also new to my repertoire and I WILL NEVER GO BACK. I adore it!! I don’t can meat or anything crazy, and steam canning works perfectly for me. No need to sterilize jars and lids, it takes about half as long to process and works like a dream! If you can already and don’t know about this, you should definitely try it! Along with steam canning is the jars, of course. I use jars all year long for regular storage, but obviously for canning they are necessary.
I have some other random things for canning (like a stand that holds bags up so you can fill it easily) but I don’t consider them workhorses, so am not including them in this round up.
Let us know what is your necessary gadgets for saving summer produce! Maybe you have something I need!!?!?!?