Canning tomatoes- scary!

Dear Reader-

I’m an active pickler, but I haven’t delved into a lot of other canning. They scare me! Ptomaine this, botulism that, who wants to give their friends and family food poisoning?!

But I make a lot of spaghetti sauce, and making it with my own canned tomatoes is an inviting idea. So, I attempt one lowly jar of tomatoes in my canning bath with a batch of pickles.

The recipe is easy. Peel the tomatoes and put them in the jar with 1 teaspoon of lemon juice to balance out acidity and kill botulism as it matures. Great, my #1 worry come to pass. I put the jar into the canning bath and set the timer for a long 85 minute processing time. Thirty minutes in I yell out a string of expletives, realizing I forgot the death-averting lemon juice. Failure.

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It cools on the counter, waiting to be tossed. I’m so mad at this point I get in the car, drive to the fruit stand, and buy more tomatoes because now I have something to prove. Sterlizing more jars, remembering the wretched lemon, I cook on, for 85 long, hot minutes.

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My stove was working overtime. It was a lot of work for two prideful jars of darned tomatoes!

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Not my best pickling day. But I will forge on!

Sincerely,

AS The Curl Turns

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Canning Homemade Strawberry Jam

Dear Reader-

As one starts to pickle, she begins to feel more brazen about canning. Maybe death isn’t imminent from ptomain poisoning. Maybe I can do this! What else can I try?

For me the next step was jam. Hubs grandmother has given us her jam before, and it is always so tasty. I find an age old recipe for strawberry jam that is not too intimidating, where else? The Farmers Almanac! We grow a small crop of strawberries in our Victory Garden, so the first step is to harvest what I can, and I purchase the rest.

These lilliputian strawberries are my favorite. What they lack in size they make up for in cuteness and perfect shape.

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They need to be hulled and mashed. I have a lot of old kitchen utensils that I love to use. That is actually an old potato masher. Thanks Mom!

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Next we mix in the sugar and cook the fruit mixture. Mmmmm, healthy!

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Now we use all the canning equipment and other ingredients. This includes the most essential piece-the beer. This does not go into the jam. This goes into my mouth.

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We have been sterilizing the jars to prevent death. This is the new jar grabber that came with my canning kit.

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This is my old one. It was a promotional item given away by the garage Bertone and Bowen, complete car service. Fun stuff, right?

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Now the fruit is cooked, the jars are sterilized, and it is time to rush the concoction into the jars and the jars into the canning bath for 10 minutes before they become contaminated by some sort of deadly virus. Man, those canning people sure scare you when it comes to sterilizing! I’m all about it, but the Black Plague part scares the you-know-what out of me!

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Now it cools and you anxiously await the POP! I anxiously await 5 POPS! actually. The wait is long, as this fruit is incredibly hot!

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I steal a canning label from a World War 2 propaganda poster about canning and make it my own. After 60 years isn’t it public domain anyway? And voila! Jam!

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Making jam was kind of like making pickles or dilly beans. Sterilizing, cooking for 10 minutes, cooling…….now that I have the hang of it, who knows?

Best,

ATCT

p.s- if your jam is a little runny, add a bit of Sure Jell next time.

 

Pickling-The Gateway to Canning for the Inexperienced Like Me

Dear Reader-

Friends of ours have a huge garden. They grow 500lb pumpkins and prizewinning Dahlias, among many other treasures. She gave me pickling cucumbers straight from the ground, and I wanted to make pickles. I have been interested in canning and pickling for quite a while, so I ordered a canning kit. While I waited for that to arrive, I made refrigerator pickles.

I am fairly proud. They are so pretty!

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The canning kit arrives, and it is large and a bit intimidating. But I am ready for homemade pickled vegetables, especially dills, so I decide it will not conquer me. I put my fears of botulism and ptomaine poisoning aside.

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I pickle asparagus and they come out unattractive and shrivelly. The forums tell me I am not a failure, that asparagus tends to do that. Especially since I picked the only recipe in existence that does not balance the vinegar with equal parts water. They are a bit tart! I also wonder if I boiled them too high, so I decide I will remedy that with my precious dills.

However, they are very good in my Bloody Marys!

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I decide on a pickling recipe from The Old Farmers Almanac (http://www.almanac.com/content/pickling-tips-and-recipes). It has some good looking stuff! The first step is the brining overnight.

There is sooooo much salt poured over the top of these cucumbers!

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Next you make the vinegar concoction and sterilize the jars. Sterilizing varies depending on who you talk to. The instructions basically tell you that unless you sterilize the jars properly you will drop dead. I ignore the fear and push on. Now starts the mad rush of stuffing the newly sterilized won’t kill you jars with all the cucumbers, garlic, dill, peppercorns, mustard seed, chili pepper flakes, and whatever else you like. Then you pour the boiling vinegar concoction into the jars, leaving only 1/2 inch at the top. Thank the Lord for all the tools my canning kit came with. That funnel really does the ‘do.

Then you have time to take a picture of what you are doing.

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These then go into the boiling bath for 10 minutes. Not the roiling bath that made my previous attempts at pickling asparagus shrivel like chicken feet.

Note my special tongs!

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10 minutes on the clock. The timer chimes and the hopefully not poisoned jars are set on a rack to cool, and most importantly-POP. The lids should seal and you will hear a very loud ‘pop’. These jars are wicked hot so it took a while. If they don’t seal properly you can still eat them, but you can’t store them. I am aiming for perfection of course so I am listening for the telltale ‘pop’ that lets me know I am not a failure. They seal and cool to room temperature overnight.

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Now to make them cute. Labels, ribbon, all you craftys know the drill. I print my favorite rationing poster and use them as my labels, and attach them with special yarn from my fathers now retired dog grooming shop.

I think they look like real pickles!

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We taste them and they are (thankfully) delicious! I can’t wait to do it again. More pickled vegetables, then on to jams and preserves! Oh my!

Sincerely,

ATCT