book giveaway, and my new old love: glass

I KNOW, ALL I TALK ABOUT IS VEGETABLES AND OTHER HOMEGROWN FOOD LATELY. It’s that time of the garden year. To sweeten the pot (and pay you back for your patience with my vegetable-garden monotone of late): two more copies of “Stocking Up,” Carol Hupping and the Rodale Food Center’s classic guide to preserving whatever you’ve got a taste for–or a glut of–are up for grabs. Want to win one?

Just jump in (down below in the comments) and tell me a tip, trick or insight you have to share about saving some kind of food for later use (or simply say hello; I’ll count your entry anyhow). Here’s mine:

I’m using Mason or Ball jars for freezing this year, gradually phasing out most of my plastic food-storage containers. That’s a frozen test jar up top of my first 2010-vintage tomato sauce (popped out of the freezer for a moment for its portrait).

Why this change?

I keep reading more all the time about food and their reactions to contact with various plastics. Apparently “plastics” is not exactly as exciting as it sounded at the graduation party for the character Dustin Hoffman played in “The Graduate” in 1967. Remember? A refresher:

Though none of my food containers bears a number 3 or 7 on the bottom, inside that familiar triangle of recycling arrows (3 being PVC, and 7 being the grab-bag category that often includes polycarbonate–both known problems), I figure glass feels better to me right now, anyhow.

We’ll see how I feel after trying to find room to store all the (um, non-stackable or nestable) glass jars when they’re empty, or whether I can really maximize my freezer space using them, the way I could with the box-like plastic bins. The glass jars’ rim shape also prevents that last-minute, “I forgot to defrost dinner” panic mode routine, when you can pop the frozen brick out of the plastic container with perhaps just a quick dunk in warm water.

Interested in the topic of safe food storage? There’s so much on the internet, but here’s a start: A thorough primer on kitchen plastics from Care2. Side note: The subject of canned food (as in, storebought in metal cans) and the presence of Bisphenol A (BPA) in those foods was raised in a flurry of perhaps not-so-new “news” about it this spring. Side note 2: I will still be using my recycled quart yogurt containers for soups and other volume items, at least for now.

The best news: I get to recycle, or at least reuse. My favorite brand of jarred organic salsa comes in Mason jars, so I’ve been saving them for this, and I have quite a lot of jars from years of pickling and jam-making, too. When you freeze in jars, just leave ample headroom for expansion of the liquid, and also so the food doesn’t touch the lid lining, which is coated with–yes–plastic. (I put a little–I know, here comes that word yet again–plastic wrap on top and closed the jar only loosely with this test run to see how much my sauce expanded when frozen, but out that will now come.) Wide-mouth jars (and especially straight-sided ones) are less apt to break than the ones with “shoulders” and narrow mouths; I’m experimenting.

How to Enter to Win ‘Stocking Up’

POST A COMMENT (preferably a tip or an “aha” about the subject of putting food up–or container and plastics for that matter, but a plain old hello will do, too) by midnight Sunday, August 22.

I’ll announce the two winners on Monday the 23d, drawn at random from among all your comments using the lovely free application at random dot org, the way I always do on book giveaways. Good luck–and now get out and pick those green beans and tomatoes and cucumbers and all the rest of it! Out I go myself…

Categoriesedible plants
  1. carter @ the kitchenette says:

    I would think that not only could you freeze in mason jars, but that would also be a great use for used flat lids, instead of using new flat lids (and having to buy more to actually can something later.)

    I’ve been trying to move from plastic containers to all mason jars, but my husband gets mad at me for buying case after case of mason jars… I’ve been doing a lot of canning this summer. Hopefully he will see how good it is to have home-canned tomatoes and jams during the dead of winter!

    @michelle I would wonder if you even have to freeze the dehydrated tomatoes… I think that’s the reason you dehydrate them, so that they are shelf stable, right?

  2. judy schmitt says:

    Hi Margaret—–one of the things I love about living on Cape Cod—is making Beach Plum Jelly……the beach plums are wild and are a gift from Nature. This year they ripened 2 weeks early…The air is heavy with the scent of these very ripe plums. My 4 year old grandson helped me pick this year, and after making 15 jars of jelly , he couldn’t wait to taste it. His special “recipe ” is to spread a cracker with peanut butter—then spread a good amount of beach plum jelly on top—-then he tops it with a slice of cheese. I love to see children try new, “old” things. I have just passed down the special time of making jelly…….makes me happy!!

  3. Jenny C says:

    In the past i have frozen in plastic containers and bags. The only downside is defrosting a block of tomato or apple sauce. This year I’m venturing into canning. So far I have canned some jam and peaches. I am not completely comfortable about freezing in glass. Next year if I am brave enough, I’ll try pressure canning. I’m looking into just trying to pressure cook first.

  4. Delores says:

    This has been a productive summer so far – my pantry has cherry, apricot, mulberry, strawberry and peach jam so far. My freezer has sweet corn, marinara sauce, salsa and whole tomatoes, green beans; cherries, peaches, blueberries, raspberry pies, and peach pies. I’ll soon be freezing endamame, pickling beets and drying winter squash and dry beans.
    I’ve wondered about using glass jars in the freezer but never explored it further. This is great news especially since a friend gave me three large boxes of wide mouth jars last night!
    Love your blog Margaret and also value the comments from other readers.

    BTW, does anyone have a great recipe for ketchup? I’ve made several jars from a recipe from the paper but it tastes more like BBQ sauce than ketchup. I’d like something more familiar to commercial ketchup. Thanks in advance.

  5. Alvaro Abrego says:

    Since this was the first year of gardening I have more lessons than actual veggies to preserve. However, I do recall fig preserves my mother would make when we were growing up. Actually, now that I recall it was all of my aunts getting into the act. White and purple figs preserves on toast. What could be better ?

  6. Deborah says:

    This is our best year ever for tomatoes since moving to the Catskills area 10 years ago. (It’s good to know that heat wave was good for something.) I use a pressure cooker to can tomatoes when we have a lot. When I have just a few, I just slip them into freezer bags and pop them into the freezer, to use later in soups. Even cherry tomatoes add up this way; some years that’s the only tomatoes that get ripe here. My tip: to freeze blueberries or slices of bell pepper, spread them on a cookie sheet and put in the freezer for a little while, and then bag them. This allows you to use just a few from the bag later, as they can be separated easily.

  7. Sydney says:

    I hadn’t thought of using mason jars for freezing. I had bought some ceramic dishes for freezing individual portions of meals. I like the dishes but the plastic lids never worked that well so I’ll have to find an alternative.

  8. Emily says:

    This is the first year I have been growing most of my own food and have been doing my best to preserve as much of it as I can. I still don’t know very much about saving food and would love to learn more.

    So far this summer, I’ve been drying lots and lots of herbs, making salsa, freezing soups and vegetables, pickling excess cucumbers, and hanging hot peppers to dry. This book would be helpful as the veggies are really rolling in right now!

  9. Tanya says:

    I’m getting ready to lacto-ferment some green beans, and I would love to win a new edition of Stockning Up. It’s a wonderful book, and mine is very old!

    There is a company out there that sells reusable lids for canning with no bpa’s involved. I googled reusable lids to find it: Tattler Reusable Lids, haven’t tried them, but want to!

  10. joan says:

    Since you are interested in glass, I have an interesting story for you. Have you discovered some lovely, old, pint-and-a-half wide-mouth Ball jars in your stash? Last year I put up some dilly beans in some of these jars. They are the perfect size. They would be great, too, for asparagus. Well, hold on to those babies because Ball is no longer making them and their supply is gone. Actually, Jarden makes their jars for them and they told me that they stopped making them a couple of years ago. I’m hoping that lots of people would love to get their hands on these jars. When I wrote to them, they told me that if there is enough interest, they might consider bringing this jar back. Write to Jarden at JHBFreshPreservingInfo@jardenhomebrands.com.

  11. Alan says:

    Hi Margaret!
    I doubt I’m sharing anything that original but I like to store some of my fresh garden vegetables using my vacuum pack food saver. Summer squash freezes very well using this method – just wash, slice, vacuum, seal and place in the freezer. They maintain their fresh flavor and color when using this method and taste great too!!

  12. Sherri says:

    Since so many stores no longer carry just the lids and/or rings for jars all year any more, buy now for later–learned the hard way when I wanted to make jelly from my frozen juice last Christmas.

  13. dd says:

    I am looking for new ideas to put up my harvest, this book would be great. I am using my food saver this yeas to freeze produce. I now freeze pesto in large clumps on a cookie sheet and transfer to a zip lock when frozen. much quicker than the tray method.

  14. kim says:

    We lost our raised beds to the March floods, so no vegetable gardens this year, but next year they will be bigger and better than ever (in a different location) and I am so grateful for your site. I get the best ideas from you!

  15. Cassandra Blair says:

    This past year we have made the choice to get rid of plastic completely and I use canning Jars to store everything (and I do mean everything lol)….luckily around where I live people sell canning jars like crazy in garage sales and at this point my porch has it’s own little corner devoted to them new and old. I just started canning about a year ago and I love everything about…even the preparation, I feel like I’m in my own little world. It allows me to have time to myself, away from the kids and my husband and to just relax and go about it. (my little ones know they can’t be bugging me while I’m canning because everything is so hot) So every time my husband takes our boys off to go do something special and when they get back I usually have some little snack made for them, they especially love when I make jam. Although I am still learning and I don’t know all the in and outs of it, canning is def something I will do for a long time and also something I will be showing my boys how to do when they get a bit older. =)

  16. Barbara D. says:

    I freeze my sauce tomatoes straight from the garden, just give them a rinse and pop them in the freezer in whatever container (plastic bag -ugh!). During the Winter months I just let them thaw slightly and pop the skins right off and make my sauce. Taste fresh from the garden!

  17. Hello Margaret ,

    My daughter Mia puts up glass jars of hot Italian peppers in olive oil. So delicious with a loaf of homemade crusty bread.

    I tried canning tomatoes a few times, but I was always worried about them spoiling, so I just started freezing my finished tomato sauce in the glass bell jars instead.

    It’s great to open a jar of my own gravy whenever I want.

  18. Rachel says:

    Hi Margaret!
    I have no tips because I don’t know how to can. I would like to can though because there’s no such thing as my grandma’s canned pickles. I used to help her with loads of cucumbers every year, and the product was simply delicious. I have never found a pickle as good as those. So in an effort to reproduce those pickles, I’d love a reference book to figure out how its done!

  19. Connie Nathan says:

    Jars of watermelon rind pickles are in the water bath now. We are a watermelon eating family, but the melon I used is the first of the season with a rind thick enough to be a possible pickle–and just barely. Does anyone know the best watermelon to grow for the thick rinds (and pickles like Grandma used to make)? Next spring, I will dedicate some of my tight garden space to at least one vine to preserve :-) the ancestral southern tradition of this old time pickle for the younger generation.

  20. Megan Stephens says:

    Hello again!
    As several people have said, I like the straight-sided wide mouths for freezing and I save the regular mouths for actual canning. I get tired of all the plastic in our lives and I find a freezer of jars charming. They layer very well if you place a piece of cardboard between. For storing, I use a shelf in my garage. Wash, store upside down (to prevent dust settling in the bottoms) and then when it is time to use again I run them through the dishwasher while I am doing all the prep. It usually times perfectly for hot clean jars ready when my food is ready to be packed. Other storage ideas for jars is to use the top shelves of closets, under beds, and shelves above the washer/dryer.

  21. Joyce says:

    Can’t believe I never thought of canning jars for freezing. I am a big quart bag user so can stack my frozen stuff flat. Thanks for the info.

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