Hey! Who want to spend the day canning tomatoes? Show of hands – Anybody? Yeah right, sweating over vats of boiling water, clouds of steam, hot jars and piles of food everywhere. Uh, well No – that sounds like a lot of work to me.
Despite this I still have this fascination with the idea that sourcing, or growing, and canning my own fresh food is the most reliable way to ensure that I have a good supply of healthy affordable food. Sure I can freeze it but what if the power goes out? That has happened here. During Hugo our power was out for almost two weeks and a few years ago an ice storm took it out for a few days. Can I keep my year’s supply of food in the freezer running on a generator for that long? Probably not.
I have bought all of the books, watched the videos and had partial success with jam but ‘partial’ success doesn’t give me the confidence to jump in and spend entire DAYS of my time and possibly waste pounds and pounds of food. And what if I screw it up? The articles I read say you CAN DIE from eating that stuff!! Of course those same articles don’t mention that we are already dying from eating that stuff in the grocery store too.
Well I just happen to know a canning expert – and in my opinion – probably THE canning expert and she just spent two days in my kitchen guiding me through my first canning session.
My Aunt Reta grew up eating the food that was prepared exactly as she taught me to prepare it and it certainly didn’t kill her, or my mother or other aunts – or me for that matter since I ate from the same pantries that they did when I was a little girl. I think the worst thing that ever happened was my mother eating an ENTIRE jar of pickled beets and peeing red – kind of scary, gross and fun all at the same time.
So Aunt Reta gave me the supply list and I had it ready when she arrived. The she started driving. “Fill this”, “Measure that”, “Boil these”, “Cut those”, and before I even knew what had happened we had a beautiful sparkling jar of Bread n’ Butter pickles cooling on the counter – several as a matter of fact.
Next came the beets and then the tomatoes. And it wasn’t hot and sweaty, it wasn’t messy, and it wasn’t even the tiniest bit hard. As a matter of fact……….it was fun.
There were also a few that didn’t process as planned which was great – ‘cause I had the Pro there to tell me what to do. If I had been by myself I would just have thrown up my hands and it would have been a loss.
The tips, tricks and organization can make all of the difference in the world. I have scalded tomatoes before to peel them and it is just a pain in the butt. Who knew (not me) that a simple X cut on the bottom of the tomato before you scald it makes for zippity quick peeling?
Leaving the tops and tails on the beets when cooking keeps in beautiful red color, just cut them afterwards and it also seems to make peeling easier. Put the cukes in ice water to chill before packing makes for a crunchier pickle and turmeric in the sweet pickle solution is not only good for you but looks absolutely beautiful – art in a jar.
So, while am certainly no pro, I’m ready to get canning. Oh and that ‘spending-the-day-canning’ thing? It didn’t take all day; we started around 8:30 and by 1pm ish we had jars on the counter cooling then off to sightseeing and restaurant eating. And to my friends that know me well - you know that the best part is? You can drink wine WHILE you are canning.