My first goal is completed!! I have canned tomatoes, salsa, beets, jam and pickles. Here's the proof!
Yeah :-) Was it perfect? No, but that's ok. My first bunch of jam is actually syrup but it's still good; the beets are a little spongy so I either cooked them too long or not long enough and they are a little spicy; and we haven't tried the salsa yet but we'll see!
Here is what I learned from canning:
1) Find the recipes you want to use (new or old) and purchase all none "home grown" supplies such as lids, sugar, garlic bulbs, etc. before the fresh veggies and fruits come to season. I did the opposite - I would go to the farmers market to see what was in and than it would be 2 or 3 days before I could get the other supplies which impacted the freshness of my produce.
2) Purchase a good food processor. I did a lot of hand chopping and "squishing" of fruits and veggies due to the lack of a food processor. It would have made canning salsa and jam a lot easier.
3) Plant a garden. Canning would be an economical way to make food for your family if you grow a lot of the ingredients. I purchased mine from a farmers market but am planning to plant a small container garden next year to grow things for pickles and salsa at the very least. Fruit I will always need to buy as I don't have fruit trees but I may try to get some raspberry and strawberry plants and see what happens.
4) Don't schedule the deep cleaning of your kitchen the same week as you are canning - deep clean the kitchen AFTER you done canning ;-)
5) Don't can tomatoes :-) I only added it to my list because I knew I would have tomatoes left from doing Salsa - next year, assuming I have a salsa recipe we like, I will can multiple batches of salsa and not do tomatoes. Why? Tomatoes take a lot of time for not a lot of results - I only got 4 jars out of a HUGE amount of tomatoes. Tomatoes are so cheap and so good in the store - for me, it's not worth it.
6) If you do can tomatoes know that there will never be the right about. You will have one more or one less than you need every single time!
7) I need to get that apron item marked off my list - one of my goals is to sew myself an apron; I could have used that this year :- )
8) You can fit ALOT more cucumbers in a jar than I thought you could! There is a lot of space in those jars now :-)
9) One last thing - canning really isn't very hard. I always thought it was - but it's not, its actually pretty easy; you just have to take the time and energy to do it :-) Granted I don't have a huge garden with stuff pouring in but I think that is where the time consuming thing comes in :-)