Saturday, June 26, 2010

Oh, Just Can It!

A few months ago, I decided that I would try my hand at canning this summer.  I'd done it before, but not to any real extent.  However, I've gotten pretty good about purchasing produce fresh from the Farmer's Market on a weekly basis during the summer months and I kind of liked the idea of preserving it.  The fact that we've had a couple of significant power outages over the past two winters where I wondered about the stuff in the freezer also contributed to this decision.

So I headed out for a book on the subject, a shiny new pressure canner and a few billion Mason Jars.  I was off and running!

Jellies.  Jams.  Pickles.  Relishes.  Veggies.  Fruits.  They all sounded good to me, at least in theory.  I don't much like vegetables, but it's kind of exciting to eat something you've worked for.  Yup.  Canning stuff for the winter months was going to work out just fine!

What I was not going to do was can meat.  That just sounded...crazy.  Meat in the cupboard is going to kill you and I don't care what the book says!  I'll stick to the jelly, thank you very much.

But the more I read, the more I thought that it might actually work.  It even sounded kind of appealing in a weird sort of way.  I wandered around the internet and checked out a few details just to be sure.  And I don't mean Billy Bob's Blog On Mountain Survival Where Everyone Knows That You Have To Hide Yourself From The Government Menace.  Billy Bob might know how to dress and cook up a deer, but I don't consider him an expert on food safety.  Billy Bob is the type who wants to kidnap me and make me his hill-billy bride.  Then I'll have to eat canned squirrel and hope the Mad Rodent Disease doesn't get me.  Billy Bob makes me nervous and I'm not taking his word for anything.

I relied, instead, on more professional sources of information like County Extension sites and canning suppliers manufacturer's guidelines.  They seemed a little more knowledgeable and less with the "kill the revenue man."

With my summer vacation upon me, time on my side and a new found confidence in the ability of the pressure canner to kill bad bacteria, I cooked up some chili con carne.  When it was all over, I had six pints of bubbling, well-sealed dinners.



But only four would fit in the artsty-fartsy picture without revealing the disastrous mess in my kitchen.



It worked.  I don't think I'm going to rely on those who would tell me this will keep for years and years.  Given that I don't have a basement for storing canned food, I'm probably not going to go more than six months.  But it worked.  I'm rather impressed.

You don't want to can anything like meat in a water bath canner.  It's not safe and I think this bears repeating.  You cannot can low acid foods like meat in anything other than a pressure canner.  Write it on your kitchen wall if you think you might forget that and blame me later.  But I do have one and there is chili in the Sheepish household today, my friends!

There is also some knitting and hope of a new sockling some time in the near future.  You have a great deal of down time when canning.  You have to sit and wait for your food to cease being a potential death threat and that is very good for knitting.  Further, I have scheduled about five thousand appointments for the next couple of weeks and all of them require that I sit and wait for people to tend to my needs.  There's not much that's better for knitting time as far as I can see.  

But I won't let all this get in the way of Wednesday's trip to the Farmer's Market.  Chili is all well and good, but it's not going to work without some side dishes.  I'm on a roll!

Except that I've run out of jars...

SA

13 comments:

Karen said...

Excellent! You will be ready for anything this winter.

Mouse said...

Very cool. My mom used to can all sorts of things.. tomato sauce, peaches, pears, & applesauce. She didn't use a pressure cooker - I remember her using a giant pot & boiling water. We also made our own pasta & dehydrated fruit snacks. If my folks were closer I'd try my hand at all of it but I can't afford the "gear" to make it.

twinsetellen said...

I have not made the leap to pressure canning, but have many quarts of peaches and tomatoes in my history. Congratulations to you.

(and as a safety measure, know that heating to above 140F denatures the botulinum toxin. Just sayin'.)

Lynne said...

Wow! And you were barely out of the extra week! This summer vacation has started very productively!

kmkat said...

Color me IMPRESSED! Someday I may try my hand at freezer jam, but that's as far as I'm willing to go.

Mia said...

wow, you are moving right along! My dad cans his meat all the time. He swears you can't eat better but the LOOK of meat in the jar (especially after it cools) just puts me a little off my game.

That chili, however, looks excellent!!

trek said...

You are surely prepared and well prepared at that for the coming zombie apocalypse.

Julie said...

Yummmmmy! I love chili. All you need now is some corn bread and a dinner guest. Just give me a call when the corn bread is ready and I'll be the guest :^)

Donna Lee said...

I hadn't thought of canning chili (but then I don't like chili so why would I want to keep it around?). I think maybe I want to check out getting a pressure canner and try that. Using a pot and water is hot and messy.

Elaine said...

I am mighty impressed!! I made some Rose Petal Jam (from Norma Knits)yesterday. It was delicious ! and embarrassingly easy. And strawberry rhubarb jam last week. I love having all these little things for little gifts.

Beth said...

I'm really impressed! I wish we lived closer because I have a lot of cans I'm not using right now. Do you have Big Lots stores in Maine? They sell canning supplies and may be cheaper than WalMart or the grocery store.

Julia G said...

Yummy! Good luck taking the AGK to the vet today!

Yarnhog said...

Now that is an excellent idea! My family loves my three bean chili. But you're right about that whole storage thing. I already store canned goods and boxed stuff in my garage. (I always wonder what idiot built a 2700 square foot, four bedroom house with a pantry the size of a bathroom cabinet. Must have been a man...whose wife did the cooking.)