Friday, August 17, 2012

Canning Your Own Food: Athletic and Dangerous

Canning food is a long-standing family tradition for the Minors.
I can remember Grandmom spending hours prepping peaches, making relish, pickling beets, and freezing lima beans.
I grew up with my mom canning food from the backyard garden - string beans, tomato sauce, and homemade applesauce.

I even have peach-peeling post traumatic stress disorder from the summer of 1997 or so.
Mom decided she wanted A LOT of peaches for the winter.
I think I washed and peeled peaches for at least three days.
Without sleeping. Or eating.

This year, having my own garden has made me think rather fondly of the time I spent helping preserve our own hard-earned food.
Even the traumatic peach event has been glossed over in my mind.
Kind of like childbirth.

Have you ever read an article on canning your own food?
Stories of jars blowing up, pressure canners blowing up, disease, spoiled food, and they always say it is imperative to refer to the USDA guidelines for temperature and boiling times.
Scary. Scary. Scary.

I begin.

Google told me I could put the whole peaches in hot boiling water for 45 seconds, then dunk them in ice cold water and the skins would fall right off.
REALLY wish Google existed in 1997.
I didn't even have a cell phone in 1997.

It still took a solid 2 hours to prep a minimal number of peaches.
My kitchen counters were covered in sticky peach syrup, including a drip trail to the garbage.
In addition, the jars all had to be sterilized in the dishwasher, a sugar syrup had to be concocted and be boiling, but only boil for 5 minutes, then remain hot, and all the jar lids had to be sterilized by boiling for 5 minutes, then remain hot but not boiling because they have to be put on the hot jars while hot.
But not boiling.

My kitchen is not equipped for this level of multitasking.
If you don't follow the directions exactly, you could give your family and everyone you know some sort of strange mold disease or botulism, because your jars won't seal.
And you will die.

Now would be the time to mention that while Grandmom canned lots of things, peaches were always frozen in her house. And our house.
But no, I decided I needed the experience of full fledged canning my first time out.
I am an idiot.

By now, I have dredged my entire boob - a boob that is still wearing pajamas at 2pm - through a puddle of peach juice in an attempt to get good photos of this fiasco.
I banished the children from the kitchen.
I could not answer the phone because my fingers were covered in glop BUT REALLY because I couldn't even handle talking on the phone for a minute while trying to figure out if the hot packed peaches were overcooked in the syrup, if the jars were hot enough, did I pack the peaches tight enough, and oh crap, did I let the lids cool down too much?

Because we will all die from disease if I mess this up.
I was sweating and panic stricken.
By the way, don't schedule anything or anywhere to be on "canning day".
You can't leave your house and will barely be able to leave the kitchen.
Because you will miss something and you will kill your family.

This is a hot water bath canning pot.
You need to know your altitude above sea level to know how long you have to boil the filled jars.
And if you don't boil long enough? Disease. If you boil too long? Ruined, wasted effort.

I pressed on.
Called mom only once. Texted a thousand times.

This is the final result.
All but two jars were sealed perfectly.
I certainly could have packed WAY more peaches in each jar.
The lesson here? Freeze them next year.

Of course I am prepping Aunt Mare's Famous Tomato Soup made from my very own homegrown Roma tomatoes.
I have already read all the stories of exploding jars of tomatoes, and I am going to do it anyway.
Because I am an idiot.


  1. LOL! :) I loved it!!! I have never canned before, Im not sure that I would have the time to do it at this point in my life, but, Yours turned our quite lovely :) Good luck with the whole tomato experiment also :)

  2. Adventures in canning -loved it!! The jars of fruit all look so pretty when lined up with the sun shining through them.