Would someone please tell my friends and husband that it is perfectly normal for a 27 year old woman to like canning food? And that it does not mean she is a senior citizen? So what if I happen to enjoy the art of preserving food and a good game of bingo…dinner at 4pm…high-waisted pants with an elastic stretch waistband…oh shit. You see, I used to make baked goods when I was stressed. During grad school in Australia, whenever I had a particularly rough essay or a bad week working on my dissertation, I would bake. Lemon pound cake, salted caramel and chocolate cupcakes, you name it, I tried to bake it. I think it is because I am an emotional person who has to handle her emotions physically. No, I don’t beat my husband. But when I am stressed, something about putting forth a few hours of effort that will take my mind off my troubles and ends with a beautiful, tasty product is just so satisfying. And then I stopped giving my baked goods away, and starting eating them all myself. I would hoard them, even. I turned into that person who would bake a pie from scratch for your party and take the leftovers home with her. The one who might stab her husband with a spork for the last piece of chocolate cake that she made for his birthday. I had no shame. And a lot of stretchy pants.
Enter canning: I still get to procrastinate on whatever work or stress I am avoiding, because it occupies me for hours, and in the end, I actually have something to show for all my procrastination! Plus I don’t have to eat the canned goods right away like I would with baked goods–they’ll stay good for up to a year, and decrease my need for stretchy pants. If I want a delicious jam or a last minute gift for a friend, boom, it’s there. I feel like the smartest person on the planet, even though I know my grandma’s grandma probably figured this out long before I did, and that millions of other people can all over the world. I get to control what goes into my food, ensure that is tastes kick-ass and has, when I can afford it, gourmet or organic ingredients, and it is almost always cheaper and more delicious than buying it at the store. I also get to preserve a little bit of summer and all that crap. I’m like Leena: Super Smart Canner Supreme.
Canning is really easy, provided you have all the equipment you need. Even if you don’t, you could easily start canning for as little $20 and find most tools in your local hardware store (especially Ace Hardware in the U.S.). Here is what you need to can: *canning jars ($6-$12) *canning pot, large stock pot with rack and lid, or pressure cooker *jar lifter (see above photo) *recipes!(this is important–a good recipe will tell you how long to process the jars based on what you are trying to can) *funnel (they usually have wide-mouth funnels specifically for canning) *cookbook (I highly recommend the above book, Small Batch Preserving, for those who do not own a farm or do not have heaps and heaps of food to process, but just want to give it a go.)
If you want to give canning a try and don’t mind being called a granny (or, hey, even if you ARE a granny), do me a favor and find a proper book or check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation’s website. Canning has a set of strict rules that must be followed, and if you don’t, well, you could make you and your friends and family sick or even die. And from my extensive research into academic journals and international newspapers, I have found that dying sucks. So don’t be lazy. Here is what I do to can. *Wash all jars and lids *Fill canner with water and start heating up. *Sterilize the jars by either boiling them in the canner for 10 minutes (lids for 5 minutes) and keeping them warm in a low oven until you need them, or by running them through your dishwasher without any soap (the dishwasher will keep them warm too!). My landlord hates me, so I don’t own a dishwasher, sadly. *If what you want to can needs cooking, like jam or chutney or relish, or heating, like a pickle brine, do it. Prepare any raw food for canning by washing and cutting to desired size. *Pack food into warm jars, making sure food or brine is hot. Run a knife around the edge of each jar to get rid of any air bubbles, and wipe the top of the jar clean. *Put warm lids on clean, filled jars, and set jars in canning with boiling water. Process cans for whatever length of time your recipe calls for. While cans are processing, I like to do a short dance of Norwegian origins that involves a lot of kicking and a bit of rolling around on the floor. Warning: it’s a pretty hot dance. Remove all children before attempting. *Use a jar lifter to remove the cans from the water, and place each can on top of a towel in a draft-free area. Try not to accidentally dip your fingers into the boiling water, and when you do anyways, scream a few choice swear words that make you glad you don’t have children yet (if you do have kids, tell them to put the earmuffs on). If it hasn’t already, the lids on the jars will eventually suction close while the jars cool off over the next few hours. If after 24 hours a can is not sealed, put it in the fridge and eat it asap. *Save the cooled off cans for up to a year, depending on what you processed. Use your computer and a package of store-bought labels to create labels so you know what the heck you canned and how long ago it you did it. *Revel in your awesomeness. Maybe take some photos of your beauties to show the world how much you rock. Like this:
I also canned heaps of mango chutney, which you may remember from this post. Here is my haul thus far for the summer. Its not as much as most, but then again, I don’t own a farm or have a fruit tree at my house. I’ve been rocking the small batch preserving so I can try a bunch of different things, and because it helps me use up extra produce from my weekly CSA.
I would love to make a few more flavors of jam, experiment with a few more pickles and relishes, and when the fall comes, applesauce! I have even found out how to make your own ginger ale and ginger beer! This could be very dangerous. I have a reputation to protect. Would making my own ginger ale officially condemn me to granny status? Well, if canning = granny, then slap on a pair of Depends and call me wrinkly, because I’m not about to stop. A little canning never hurt nobody. But if you see me entering a shuffleboard tournament or buying one of those giant bag-o-granny panties for $10 from the local Walgreens, please, by all means, somebody slap me. ~LTG!