We like to use the recipes in the book “Putting It Up With Honey,” which you can see by clicking on the Homestead Library tab at the top of the page.
This week we have been canning apples and pears because we got an awesome deal on them at the discount grocer.
If you have kids, but don’t include them in your canning, you are missing out! My kids have each been helping can since they were big enough to sit on a table or stool and hold a spatula. There is always some little job that even the youngest can do, like putting the funnel in and out of the jar while you work, or handing you the ring when you need it. As they get older they can handle harder jobs. Of course, you have to be very careful with all the hot stuff you are dealing with. But careful planning and positioning of a little one can be safe.
Yes, it takes more time with the “help” of little ones. And yes, it is messier. But it teaches them a love for helping and improves family unity. And when they get bigger, they will actually be helpful and will know how and be willing because they have been doing it since they were tiny.
All the years of having “helpers” that were not as helpful has definitely paid off for us. Today, while canning apples, my 8, 9, 11, and 13 year old were all EXTREMELY helpful and could have practically done it on their own.
We set up two stations next to each other on the counter and the kids break into two teams. The wash/peel team, and the cut/core team. Today, Young Man and Little Miss did wash and peel. Little Miss went back and forth to the box of apples, took them to the sink, rinsed them, and delivered them to Young Man. He ran them through the peeler.
He set the peeled apples on the cutting board next to him where Sunshine would cut them with the corer/slicer.
Then she handed those parts to Braveheart, who cut any extra bits of peel or core off them and put them in a bowl of water with a bit of lemon juice.
Meanwhile, I got the jars, lids, and honey syrup ready, and Mr. Smiles sat in his high chair watching us while gumming on an apple slice. Then we switched to our jar loading jobs: I handle the hot jars coming out of and going back into the hot canner. Little Miss loaded the apples into the jars, Sunshine ladled the syrup over them, and Braveheart handed me the lids and rings. Many hands made for very fast work and before I realized it the first load of jars was in the canner processing. Such a blessing to have such great helpers! After we finished our work we enjoyed some of the leftover slices, and then the kids headed off to ride bikes and play.
All winter long as we eat our fruit and honey syrup over our oatmeal we remember and appreciate the hard work we all put in together as a team to put up the food.
I give the children jobs based on their maturity and responsibility level. It isn’t really an age based thing because different kids can handle different responsibilities at different ages. It is important to pick jobs carefully to keep everyone safe.
Job Ideas for Kids Helping Can
***These are estimated ages – know what your kids can handle safely, it might not be the same as this list. Make decisions based on maturity and motor skills, not by age. This list is assuming you are right there with your children working together and that you are overseeing everything and keeping them safe.
Youngest (3-5 years) Alongside You at These Jobs:
- Help wash the rings (and lids if you are using the plastic re-useable ones)
- Hand you the rings
- Help peel peaches (if they are not too hot)
- Help rinse apples and pears
- Use a plastic spatula to push apples and pear slices under the lemon juice water in the bowl
Middle Ages (6-11 years):
- Get lids out of hot water and give them to you on magnet (if metal) or tongs (if plastic)
- Wash jars and lids (be careful of sharp edges on metal lids)
- Peel apples and pears (careful of sharp blades)
- Core and slice (again be careful of sharp blades)
- Peel peaches after blanching (be careful – hot)
- Cut extra skins or core pieces off (can use a serated butter knife for this)
- Load fruit into hot jar
Oldest Ages (12 years and up):
- Ladle hot syrups and brines into hot jars
- Use jar lifter to lift jars in and out of canner