Wednesday, August 24, 2011

lost art of canning

We're bringing back canning today!  
So if you have littles at home, stop reading right now, go cuddle and savor your babes, 'cuz it goes too fast!  Too soon they will be in school and you will have to come up with something better to do with your time than wishing back those days, like writing about canning...
After they are in school, you may proceed :)

I don't know that I fully appreciated the legacy my mom passed down to us kids, the "fruit" of her labor...until now.  I can still see her over a pot of boiling water, peeling the skins off tomatoes to can, snapping beans or peas to freeze, shucking corn (which has to be one of the funnest phrases to say, especially if you add a twist to it, like "shukka kahn!"), or sitting down with a pairing knife, a large bowl of peaches and some simple syrup.  

I realize not all have been able to shadow their moms on this one, and I'm not saying all moms should do this.  This is the beauty of God gifting us in all different ways, and using those gifts in all different seasons. 

If you are in a season where you would like to throw some jars into a canner, but have no idea where to begin, here ya go.  
the basics.
1.  find the time.
If you have half-pints running around your house, calling you mama, save canning for another year.  I started when the older boys were 3 and 4.  We don't have tv, so I would put them to bed at 7 and spend a few nights over the canner.  Now that they are older, I do what I can while they are in school.
2.  prioritize.  
We love preserving fresh produce, but I can't do it all.  I would be spending this whole month in the kitchen if I tried to.  So, we picked out a few favorites:  freezing berries and applesauce, canning salsa and peaches.  
3.  price.
In order to not consider this a waste of time or resources, I have to make sure we're saving money.  I ask around for the best prices, checking local produce stands, talking with local farmers, looking into produce auctions.  I have gotten 2nds before on peaches, because they can be half the price of 1sts.  This year I got a bushel of local peaches for $31.  I canned 21 quarts, and we probably ate or gave away another 5 quarts.  It came to a little more than $1 per jar, which will be cherished in baked oatmeal on a cold winter's day.
4. process.
Let's say your counter looks like this.  Remember my motto:
A few twinges of regret equals a whole year of gratitude.
Take a deep breath.  
To easy-peasy peel them, place in boiling water, then quickly remove and plunge into ice-cold water.
This is the set-up I find easiest for halving peaches and removing the skins:  1 pot of ice-cold watered peaches (left), 1 bowl for skins and pits (middle), 1 pot of cold water (right) for halved/skinned peaches to go into until they are ready to be placed into jars.

When it's time to put them in jars:
.: lower the halved peaches with a fork stuck in the middle of the peach.   
.: stack them around in a circle.
.: pour in the simple syrup, leaving 1/2 inch at the top. [1 cup sugar to 3 cups water]
.: sprinkle citric acid or fruit fresh on the top peach. [1/2 teaspoon per jar]
.: tighten the lid with a ring.  [rings can be re-used, but use new lids!]
.: place sealed jars in a canner.
.: pour in enough water to come up 2 inches on the sides of the jars.  
.: put the lid on the canner, turn on the burner, and wait for the water to boil.  
When the water has boiled 16 minutes, remove the jars from the canner, tighten the lids, and turn the jars upside down to cool.
After they are cool, remove the rings, label and store.  

If you're doing salsa, here's the recipe we like.  I simmer the batch of salsa 30 minutes.  Spoon into jars, using a ladle and funnel.  Process the salsa in 2 inches of boiling water for 30 minutes.  Then, proceed as above with removing the jars.

If you are a seasoned canner, and have anything to add, please do share!
If you're a cold-feet-canner, you can do this!  And, be sure let us know how it goes...
And, if you're a mama just not able to add one more thing to your day, good for you!  Yours is a precious calling!  Enjoy these days, as full and crazy and sleepy as they may be :)


  1. I did a bushel, but didn't get nearly 21! :) They look beautiful in your cupboard.

  2. Thanks Hanni! We like the cupboard too, but it's been in a barn for too long and smells of pickles, tongue-oil, and maybe a little dead rat :)
    And, I just counted them again to be sure - yep, 21. But not all of them are full, as some floated to the top during processing. Now is the hard part of not eating them all up!

  3. I felt like you were speaking right to me, saying "Jewels, don't even think about attempting this right now!" :) Ok, I won't even go there...but I might need some of those peaches and salsa to be in your carry on!!

  4. jules, so glad it finally let you comment!!! there may have been a few mamas that came to mind who share my ambition... and, i'll certainly share the love :)