Growing up, it was something my grandma did. Now? I can't wait to do it. Yep, it's canning season!

We got together with friends this weekend and a topic of discussion was canning. Some were making apple pie filling, some were doing pickles, and some like us, were doing tomatoes. After you've done it once, it becomes an addiction, because there's nothing like fresh tasting vegetables and fruit, especially during the cold winter months!

Many of my friends have homes in the country, so they have these wonderful gardens and LOTS of storage space. Sarah and I live in an apartment in the city. But we still love to cook and have some of the advantages of our country friends.

Rather than hit our friends up for extras from their gardens (don't worry, we will in the future! haha) we went to the Garden of Weedin', near Larchwood, Iowa. They're literally two blocks from Grand Falls Casino, but on the South Dakota side of the state line. We drove down Friday evening after work after reserving two bushels of tomatoes. We shopped their 'store' which is an old, small shack on their property where shelves have been built to hold a lot of the smaller veggies. We found a great selection of fresh peppers, so it was time to spice up our salsa.

We did do two dozen pints of just tomatoes that we can use in our homemade marinara and swiss steak during the cold months. But we love to use salsa when making chili, meatloaf, and many other dishes besides just serving them with chips. So we ended up canning over 50 pints of homemade salsa with jalapeno, cayenne, habanero, peter and ghost peppers!

I tried a few spoonfuls and for me, it's a comfortable heat, but I love spicy food, and my friends have already asked for a warning when we serve it at the next get together. We got a little but of a late start this season, but even with the freeze this weekend, you can still find people that have fresh veggies and fruit available. It's not as difficult as you think (it's not as easy as grocery shopping of course, but it's SO much better).

Our total investment this season? Well we already had jars from past seasons, so vegetables, a few salsa seasoning mixes for that extra zing, and some lids...about $50. We've got 75 pints of fresh tomatoes and salsa which in a store would have run us over $200. Yep, canning make sense that way too.