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...