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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, February 07, 2011

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Estimating Number of Jars of Home Canned Foods for Pantry

Frugal Kitchens 101

Canning is a year round activity here.  Quite frankly I will can whatever I can if it is available.  In reality canning really is comprised of two seasons here.  From May through October is my busy canning season as I process produce as it is in season and in quantities large enough to get us through to the next season.  November through April is my slow canning season.  This time is used to can foods that essentially can be canned year round (eg. soups, stews, meats, stocks, beans and some jellies).  While there is a lot of planning to be sure I have the necessary supplies on hand (eg. jars, lids, pectin, ClearJel, etc) especially for the busy well before the season starts I already have a list of the number of jars that I need of each product I intend to can.  In this week's Frugal Kitchens 101 I discuss how I go about planning the number of jars I need to keep my pantry well stocked.

I process between 1,000 and 1,400 jars of home canned foods each year.  Of that some of those jars are given to our kids and friends.  Note that this is the quantity canned each year not the number of filled jars I have in the pantry at any given time although it can get that high especially towards the end of the busy canning season.  Jars are cleaned then refilled on an ongoing basis.   Here's how I do my planning for the busy canning season:

  • inventory - I do a complete pantry inventory in early April each year.  This gives me a good idea as to what my remaining stock is on certain products especially the tomato based ones.  It also uncovers any product like stock or beans that I'm running low on and will need during the summer but would rather can outside of the busy canning season.  I create a list of needed home canned products for the pantry which I divide into two groups - must can now and can wait until slow canning season.  The reason being is unless I have to can a product that could wait until the slow canning season like stock then I will hold off in order to focus my attention to the in season produce.
  • the books - I scan through all of my canning books in early April as well making a list of a few different  products I would like to try.  All of these will be small batch canning worked around the bulk of the other canning.
  • the list - The final list is comprised of products needed from the inventory (both groups) and those new products I want to try.
  • focus on what's in season - From May through October I follow what is in season locally and in my garden focusing on what produce I will need for canning.  For example, May I focus on asparagus and rhubarb while June is strawberry month, September is tomato month and so on.  Of course there is an abundance of other produce that ends up being canned as well and they each have their own seasons overlapping the main ones. 
Now that I'm prepared it's time to figure out how many jars of each product to make.  This really is not as difficult as it sounds.  Here's what I do:
  • small batch new products - My rule of thumb if 4 jars as a test batch.  If the product is a jam or jelly then I usually use 250 ml jars.  If it is a new sauce I use 500 ml jars.  
  • tried and true products - This includes products like salsas, vegetable based soups, tomato sauces, vegetables and etc.  My calculation is [#of jars per week X 52] + 24 for each product I make if using 500 ml jars.  The additional 24 jars is to take into account extras for entertaining and gift giving.   For example, on average we go through 2 jars of roasted tomato sauce per week.  That works out to:

    [2 X 52] + 24 = 128 (500 ml jars)

    If I'm calculating for a product that we don't use as much of like a condiment then I usually plan on using a jar per month so the total needed is 12 jars (125 or 250 ml) or for something like dill pickles I reduce that down by half the number of jars but packed in 1 L jars.
The slower canning season is a bit more sporadic and relaxed with canning products as the ingredients become available.  I try to keep anywhere from 12 to 15 cases (144 to 180 jars) of empty jars on hand at any given time.  As we use filled jars from the pantry they are cleaned then put back into their cases ready to be called into action when the opportunity presents itself.  From time to time I have to buy a box of jars to replace jars that are temporarily at our kids, friends or vacation home but both Canadian Tire and Home Hardware carry canning jars year round so that is never a problem.

I don't do a lot of actual planning as to total number of jars needed for any product I can during the slow canning season.  This tends to be canning necessary to keep the pantry well stocked with products that can be canned year round.  If the product is low acid (eg. beans, soups, etc) I aim for 16 - 500 ml or 7 - L jars so I can run a full canner load.

2 food lovers commented:

LindaG said...

Thanks for this. When I get into canning, I'll know how to plan. :)

Mom's Cafe Home Cooking said...

You are quite welcome Linda. Keep collecting all the canning tips you can for when you do start canning!