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Canning as a Family Tradition

(this is an older post, copied from my old blog that I am trying to combine with this one)

As our family grows and ages, we’re finding a somewhat regular rhythm to life. There are things to do each season. I realized this year that our end-of-summer tradition has been canning. My husband has always helped me at least one busy night of canning (depending around his work schedule). My children help, too. This year the oldest two were actually capable of really helping me, by peeling apples!

This year I picked up a really cheap apple peeler. During the move before last, I lost my metal, clamp-on-the-counter apple peeler so this year when I saw one at a garage sale for $.25 I grabbed it. I figured even if it didn’t work, it was still worth the risk.

We purchased 4 bushels of apples from an old orchard we used to live near. Five years later, though we haven’t lived anywhere near the orchard for a few years since, we still make the trek to visit the orchard. It’s a small family-run orchard with great prices. The owner has gotten to know us and is very friendly.

This year we tried the peeler on the apples, and it works great! So great that each of the two oldest kids got to help mama peel apples for applesauce, canned apple slices and apple pie filling. With each jar we filled, sealed and processed, a new family memory was made. They were both so proud of themselves, and seem to be catching my “can do” attitude. They love the fact that we can fill our shelves with our own home-canned goodness rather than spending money to buy it. They realize that money saved in one place can be saved for something bigger and better – or better spent in another area. If we can do it ourselves and save money, or do it better, or make it healthier – we do!

During the harvest season, the kids have more time off from homeschooling. We homeschool year-round because life’s interruptions never fall during the summer months. When you’re an active, large, homeschooling family, life’s interruptions can happen at any time of the year. If I relied on summer vacation as our time off, I’d feel horrible taking additional time off as needed (side from holidays and whatnot) and feel neglectful. But considering we’ve put in a pretty solid summer of homeschooling, I feel fine taking this time off now even as other students are beginning to start their school year.

The harvest season isn’t a daily, long-term commitment here. It might take me a week or a bit longer depending on how much I have to can at once. Right now I have 4 bushels of apples and about 90 lbs of potatoes to can. I’m on my 2nd day and have knocked off about 30 lbs of potatoes and 1.5 bushels of apples. A week or two ago, I took two days to can two bushels of pears. I’ll be making and canning chicken and beef stock once the weather cools, and possibly green beans from my fall garden if the harvest is as good as it looks now.

Canning is not a time where I shut all the kids away outside.. This is a time where everyone is involved. Even if it’s as simple as my two year old handing me jars from the box on the floor (and counting them as we go), or my oldest son counting out how many lids and rings we’ll need, or my daughter learning how to measure how much water and sugar we’ll need for a light syrup (then get wowed at how the white sugar turned clear in the water as it dissolved, and learn why). The kids learn about high and low acid food, and why some can be waterbath canned while others need to be pressure canned. They learn how to use the equipment, even if they’re not directly involved with the hot canning equipment. They learn about steam and how it works in the canner. They learn how to test seals and how homecanned goods should be properly stored for the best results. We count how many pints and quarts we’ve canned, separate them into different groups depending on what they are, and count how many of each. Once we’re all done and have final tallies, we’ll make some graphs and charts to show what we’ve done together as a family. We learn how the fruit grows and the kids make the hour-long drive to to the orchard with us to pick up the fruit.

The whole process of canning is a huge learning experience. And a whole lot of work. We’re making memories, learning a lot, saving a ton of money (considering we bought most of the canning equipment years ago used), exercising teamwork, and bonding together as a family.

So even though we’re taking some time off from “regular” homeschooling, we still find ways to sneak education into the other parts of life, too!

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