Canning peas is great fun. We have been shelling peas for several days. That is also quite fun. I’ll be talking all about that and more in today’s podcast.
I want to take a minute and say welcome to all the new listeners and welcome back to the veteran homestead-loving regulars who stop by the FarmCast for every episode. I appreciate you all so much. I’m so excited to share with you what’s going on at the farm this week.
Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates
It’s a beautiful time of year. Summer has arrived in full force. The days are often sunny and hot. We could use a lot more rain, but again, it is summer. The rains will be few and far between for the most part. That means watering the garden and orchard a lot. We really need to get that irrigation system back up and running. Oh well, it’s on the very long list of stuff we would like to do. Right now, life is all about canning peas. But first . . . how about some animal updates?
Surprise! Hansel and Gretel, the twin calves, have a new home. Each day I went out there to give them their bottles I looked and them and mused about what we were going to do with them. Then God provided. A man called out of the blue. He actually lives relatively close, about an hour away. He was frantic for a calf. Just that morning one of his cows, a Holstein, had lost her calf. I was happy to say that we did have a calf he could buy. In fact, we had two and the cow being a Holstein, she would produce lots and lots and lots of milk. He could probably use two calves.
It all happened so fast. Before nightfall, this wonderful man and his wife were here picking up those two calves. It was such a win-win situation. Again, it all happened so fast I didn’t have much of a chance to think about how much I would miss seeing those baby faces every day.
Artificial insemination is in progress. It is less than a week before we see if the AI took. We look for signs from any of the cows coming into heat. If so, we do it again. Fingers crossed all seven cows and heifers are pregnant on the first try.
Scott got all of the donkeys spiffed up with their hooves trimmed nicely. They are going to the sale barn. If you would like one of these great animals, let us know soon. Their purpose on our homestead was livestock protection. Now that we have decided to use livestock guardian dogs for that task, their jobs no longer exist and they will have to move on to help out someone else.
I will miss them, especially Daisy and Cocoa. Well, Sweet Pea and Johnny will also be missed. It was a hard decision but we have to do the best we can for all of our animals and the coyote pressure was too much for them, I think. They are miniature donkeys. Perhaps if they had been full sized donkeys, the job would have been an easy one. In any case, we are moving on with the next plan. It’s how we roll on the homestead.
Sheep and Goats
I just checked the possible delivery dates for the sheep. We couldn’t find the day that we put Lambert back in with the ladies, so we guessed based on the log entries for when the animal predation stopped. Our best estimate indicates we could have new lambs the last week of October. That would be such a blessing. We really have no idea how it will go as we’ve never tried to breed the ewes for a fall lambing. Many sheep and goats will only breed in the fall for spring lambing. The katahdin breed is supposed to be able to breed year-round. We shall see.
Orchard and Garden
Just before I started this podcast, I went to the spare bedroom and looked out the window to see if Scott might be in the garden. It was not likely but you never know. He has been working on fixing the deer fencing that was annihilated a few years back during a particularly difficult thunderstorm. Trees were down all over and one took out some of the deer fencing.
The game cameras we have out there indicated to Scott that there are two deer that are regularly invading the orchard. That’s why the blueberries disappeared. Likely the blackberries will be next. Something was also chomping on the green beans. I knew that would be deer. They love green bean plants.
Deer are Dear
Anyway, I’m looking out the window for Scott and what do I see? There is a deer pacing up and down outside the garden. She is looking for a way to get in and steal more of our bean plants and fruit. I watched her for a little while. Then she laid down right in front of the gate into the orchard. Just plopped down. A half hour later, I looked again and she was still laying there in front of the gate. Of course, if I opened the door and looked out, she would hear that noise and likely run away. I let her rest. It seems Scott has her fenced out. No need to upset her even more.
The tomatoes are doing well in the garden. Again, we have to water nearly every day. Fertilizer needs to happen as well.
The tomatoes were planted just in front of the green peas. Green peas produce a whopping amount of peas and then die off pretty quickly. I had two 70-foot rows of peas. One was a shelling variety and the other were those lovely sugar snap peas. My original plan was to take them to the farmer’s market. Then life happened. They came on so quickly and there were far too many for me to pick, clean and package in time for market. I did pack up two 5-gallon buckets full and sold nearly all of those. But there were so many.
Because they ripened so quickly and it was hot and they were drying out quickly, I simply pulled up all the plants. There was a lot of green material along with the peas. But I needed to get them out of the sun quickly. The living room floor was filled with lots of greenery for a few days. Each evening, we went through the plants and pulled off the peas.
All together there were five more 5-gallon buckets of peas in the pods. These were too far gone to sell fresh at the market so the next challenge was getting the peas shelled out so I could can them. That is still a work in progress. And that brings me to the topic of the day, canning peas.
Within a couple of evenings, my 3-gallon stainless steel pot was full. In quart jars, that is a nice even dozen. I figured with leaving head space and all that I could stretch that to 14 jars and fill my American Standard canner. It is tall enough to hold two levels of 7 jars each. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Scott and I have spent three or four days so far shelling peas in the evening after chores and dinner. We are re-watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy. When Scott saw what I had picked for entertainment while we shelled peas, he commented something along the lines of, “I guess you are expecting this take a while.” And indeed, I did . . . and do. We are nearing the end of the extended versions of the movie. I don’t really know many hours that entails. I’m thinking three plus hours for each film, so that would be somewhere in excess of nine hours so far.
We have three of the five buckets of peas shelled. I have one canner full from the first two buckets and enough peas for another seven jars from the third bucket of peas. That leaves two more buckets for tonight and tomorrow night. That should make another 14 quarts. All together I will likely have 35 jars of canned peas. That should last us a while, don’t ya think?
Canning is the Easy Part
Canning the peas is the easiest part of this whole scenario. I know that some of you may be hesitant about canning. But once you know and understand how it is done, it comes down to what size jar you use and how much time will that be at 12 pounds pressure. Well, twelve pounds for us. We are over the 1,000 feet elevation mark. The standard is 10 pounds of pressure for canning just about anything that requires a pressure canner.
I have a nice gauge that allows me to bring that pressure up to 12 pounds. If I use my smaller canner, I end up using a pressure device that just wobbles and spits steam when the pressure is reached. I use the 15-pound pressure gauge to make my canning safe. And I’m ahead of myself again. Let me give you the basics of canning in a nutshell. Hopefully, you will see that it is not as onerous a task as you might think.
Experience Develops Confidence
I used to think that canning was really, really hard and I dreaded the late summer as I would have to begin canning the harvest. That was years ago. After the first couple of years, it became second nature to me. You can get there as well. When canning peas, beans, carrots, corn, greens and so on, the steps are the same. The time to hold the jars at pressure is the only thing that changes. I simply bring out the Ball canning book and check the time for the vegetable I’m canning.
The steps are simple for cold pack canning. That means the vegetables are not cooked or otherwise heated. The jars are supposed to be heated, but I never actually do that.
Step One – Get Your Equipment Ready
Step one is getting your equipment ready.
I set up the canner on the stovetop, fill it with three quarts of water or just enough to have about an inch and a half of water from the bottom of the canner. I add about a tablespoon of vinegar to the water. It can be detrimental to the rings, making them rust, but it makes keeping the inside of the canner clean a breeze. That’s a tip I picked up a couple of years ago. The inside of my canner had become dark and discolored. Then I saw a canning video on YouTube and the Youtuber added vinegar to prevent that. I started doing that and my canner now looks like new inside.
Anyway, get the canner set up. I turn the burner on low and slowly heat that water and vinegar. It will be just about at a boil by the time I get everything else done.
Prepare the jars. That means making sure they are free of cracks and knicks at the rim. They need to be clean and sterilized. Lots of folks immerse them in boiling water, I use bleach water. It’s faster and that means a lot to me. The canning is not hard to do but it can be time consuming waiting for this to boil and that to boil and so on. If using soapy bleach water to clean and sanitize my jars is not safe, someone let me know in the comments, along with why. My mom used to put her jars on a baking sheet and stick them in the oven for a few minutes. That was her method of sterilization.
Large Pot of Boiling Water
You will also need a large pot of boiling water to pour over the vegetables once they are in the jars. Go ahead and prepare that now. There is no set amount. Guessing is my method there. Twelve quart-jars filled to the brim will hold three gallons. The peas take up lots of space so I figured no more than a cup or two of water per quart jar of peas would be plenty. In the end, I used less than a gallon and a half of boiling water for 14 jars of peas.
Canner set up, jars cleaned and sterile, water to pour over the veggies. Equipment is all set up.
Step Two – Prepare the vegetables
Step two is getting your vegetables ready. For canning peas, that means shelling them out and cleaning them up. That has been the hardest part so far. It was much harder than shelling them out. That just takes time. Getting the little bits of shells, twigs and leaves out was a real challenge.
Step Three – Fill the Jars, Put Lids in Place
The next step is filling the jars. Oops! Almost forgot. Add salt if you desire. I always do. One half teaspoon for pints and one teaspoon for quarts. Again, it’s the same for all vegetables. That’s why this gets easy. After a while you don’t even have to think about it.
Add salt to the bottom of the jar. Loosely fill the jar with vegetables, don’t pack them. I fill mine to just below one inch of headspace below the rim.
Next fill each jar with boiling water to one inch below the rim. I’m making sure the veggies are covered under the hot water.
Wipe the rims with a damp paper towel or washcloth. Place the lid and ring. Screw lid on to finger tight. Put the jar in the canner. After all jars are in place, put the canner lid in place and secure it according to manufacturers instructions.
Step Four – Bring the Canner up to Pressure and Start Timing
Now that everything is in place, turn up the heat on the burner. Leave off the pressure gauge. That’s the big weight that lets you identify when the proper pressure has been reached. Because I have the analog reading on my big canner, I use the 10-pound pressure gauge. It will actually come up to about 12 or 13 pounds of pressure before that gauge starts dancing and letting out steam. It should dance around a few times each minute. More than that, and you have too much pressure. Turn down the heat.
Once I get that dancing pressure gauge, I turn down my heat to medium low. That is three on my stovetop dial. After doing a few batches, you will know exactly where to set your stovetop to maintain the proper pressure. Again, mine is at three. Set your timer for the recommended amount of time. For quart jars of canned peas the Ball Canning book says 40 minutes at the recommended pressure for your altitude.
Step Five – Remove the Jars
When the timer goes off, turn off the heat and wait until the pressure gauge has completely returned to 0. If you don’t have the analog dial, what you will have is a pressure relief button. Once the button falls back to its resting position, the pressure is zero. If you are ever in doubt, just wait 15 more minutes.
Remove the Gauge
Once the pressure has returned to zero, remove the gauge. Some steam may come out still. Do not do the “quick release” like you would do with your InstaPot. Let the pressure return to normal without any help. If the pressure comes down too quickly, the water will bubble up out of the jar. You will lose liquid leaving your veggies partially out of the liquid and you may have jars that do not seal well if bits of the veggies got under the lid. Let all return to normal naturally.
Remove and Cool the Jars
After removing the gauge, a waiting five minutes to ensure all pressure is normalized, remove the lid. Using the special tool for removing jars from the canner, gently place each jar on a towel or wooden cutting board. Do not adjust the lids. Let them cool naturally.
At this point you are all done. And what a great job you did. Once the jars are completely cooled, label them and store them with your other canned foods.
That’s it for today podcast. I hope you enjoyed hanging out with the animals on the homestead. Sharing it all with you is a blessing for me and I hope it is for you as well.
I boiled the steps of canning down to five. Get your equipment set up, prepare your vegetables, fill the jars and place the lids, bring your canner up to pressure, and then a proper cool-down afterwards. That’s it! I hope I’ve inspired you to give canning a try if you haven’t already. And I know you probably have lots of questions if you are just starting out. Feel free to contact me if you would like me to answer your questions. I’d love to assist you in developing your homestead skills.
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Thank you so much for stopping by the homestead and until next time, may God fill your life with grace and peace.
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