Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Dangers of Home Food Preservation

The month of June I become obsessed with home food preservation. I love the idea of putting up food for my family all the while decreasing my much-too-large environmental footprint. I can't drive a Prius but I can make sure all the tomatoes we consume come from less than an hour away and are stored in recycled jars. Plus, it is just so darn fun to do. Don't get me wrong, it is a lot of work. But there is something about it I love so much. I have given myself the five year goal of growing and canning all the tomatoes we need for a year. I am guessing that is about 75-100 quarts. Not quite two quarts a week. Seeing as how I did not plant the first tomato plant this year and I only canned about 30 quarts of tomatoes, I don't know that I'll reach the goal, but I'm going to try.

I don't just can tomatoes. I canned salsa, yellow squash pickles, carrot pickles, cucumber pickles.
I've dried at least 100 tomatoes, lots of squash, coconut, onions, strawberries, raspberries, pineapple, apples. I've grated 30 cups of zucchini and frozen them. I grated some onions, froze them in ice cube trays, then when they were frozen, I popped them out into freezer bags. Then I can just pull out one or two onion cubes when I am cooking.

One of the things I love about canning is that you put up whatever is in bounty. There are more blueberries around here that you could shake a stick at. So, saving some in the freezer makes good sense. Come to visit next June and I'll put you to work. The picture above is of Aunt Patti and Reverend Holly, two of my canning and cooking buddies, at the u-pick fields we go to about an hour from here.
In the beginning I was running three dehydrators. One of them I got from the top of the shop. I cleaned it up and put it to work. I woke up at three in the morning several nights later to a loud cracking and popping noise. I got up to see what it was and half the kitchen was filled with smoke and the dehydrator was on fire. I screamed for H and then reached around the dehydrator to unplug it. She got out the fire extinguisher and put out the fire. We are very lucky that I am usually a light sleeper and that the fire was making noise. Our smoke detector never went off.

The next day I was lethargic and nauseated all day. I don't know whether it was the smoke I breathed in or the stress and anxiety from the fire, but I sat on the couch most of the day feeling puny.

I felt good about the way H and I handled the fire. I felt like we responded well. What I was most upset about was that the dehydrator was giving me all kinds of signals that it was on the fritz and I didn't take it seriously. It felt too hot, it burned some of my tomatoes, then it started smelling funny. The regulator must have been going out. I should have unplugged the thing days before it finally caught fire. That is the mistake I made. I am just so thankful that a marred counter and 40 lost tomatoes are all we had to deal with.

1 comment:

The Sweetest Bean said...

i'm so glad you all are safe and that didn't turn out worse! I'm very impressed by all your canning and freezing. i hope to gleen some of your knowledge and skill one of these days soon! We miss y'all! Lots of love!