Healthy Eats · Responsible Living

Rookies

Well, I’m am excited to day that Rob and I tried out hand at canning for the very first time last night and I think it came out OK! This is a crucial step toward our goal of being food savvy and eating local and I’m glad to be putting it behind me. I think we learned several things last night, as with any maiden voyage, and we’ll be much better prepared next time. We also froze green beans from our garden while our jars were processing. We had wanted to can them as well but, we don’t yet own a pressure canner. 😦 Soon, we will remedy this problem.

  In preparation for this day we bought Ball’s canning book so that we wouldn’t kill ourselves with made-up canning recipes. You have to be very careful and calculated when canning or you might just end up with a product that can make you very sick. The book is handy to have and up-to-date on all the latest canning science. Yes, I said science.

         I’m not going to lie to you, canning and preserving food is a lot of work. It’s also totally worth it. Healthy, local food all year ’round that you don’t have to buy from the store is amazing and SO much better for you and the earth. Our evening was full of mishaps and “what the heck”s but it was fun and a huge learning experience.

     We canned beets from our garden and followed a recipe from Ball’s book for pickled beets. Granted, they are not fermented beets as we would prefer (for the wonderful probiotics) but, we had the beets and wanted to try canning so… here’s what we did. We first cleaned them and boiled them until they were tender. (About 45 min)

I took them out and washed off the skins while rinsing under cool water. The skins come right off, for the most part, and I was glad my white sink didn’t get stained pink! It was a pretty messy job.

After that I cut them up into smaller chunks and measured how many cups it made as I went. We ended up with 14 cups of prepared beets. The recipe called for 10 cups so we used 1.5x the amounts listed. We ended up wishing we had doubled it because we ran out of liquid. It worked out though, since we were only canning 7 jars in the canner. We had leftover beets that we just put in the fridge.

While all of this was going on, Rob was out on a mission to remedy our first, big mistake.

Lesson numero uno: Don’t mess around. Get the right equipment BEFORE you start canning.

We had spent a good part of the afternoon gathering “all” of the things we though we would need for this little canning adventure. We couldn’t find a pressure CANNER (different from a pressure cooker) anywhere but we passed up on a good water bath canning pot at one point during the day, thinking that our pot at home would work. Unfortunately, it did not. So there we were, beets boiling on the stove and no pot to can them in. We made a decision: close your eyes and your conscience and go to Wal*mart and buy a dang canning pot. Now, for those of you who don’t know, we do not shop at Wal*stink and we like it that way. So, this was like making a deal with the devil for us but, we were desperate. Rob knew what he had to do. (We also needed cheesecloth and cinny-sticks for the recipe… forgot those earlier, too! Dah!) So off he went while I waited for the beets to finish cooking. Learn from this, people. Prepare! As fate would have it, Wally World was fresh out of canning pots and Rob ended-up getting one from K-mart, since Lord-knows nobody shops there and they weren’t sold out. He stopped for the other two items at Kroger on the way home and >phew!<  3 strikes and you’re… ready.

    So anyway… Lesson learned, we pressed on. We put all of the ingredients in the pot (water, sugar, vinegar, spices) only to learn that we were supposed to cook the liquid first to meld the flavors better. Earth to Sarah and Rob: read. the. directions.

Oh well. They turned out fine.

We already had our jars and lids hot and ready to go so after about 15/20min of simmering the beets we started filling the jars.

And there they were. Ready to process. We brought the water to a boil, set the timer and waited. Don’t be fooled though, we didn’t twiddle our thumbs! It was already after 10pm and we hadn’t even started the huge pile of green beans we needed to blanch and freeze yet!

Rob and I were both getting sleepy and we knew 6:45am would not be a welcome sight if we didn’t get crankin’ on those beans. So, chop, chop, chop!

    Rob washed and chopped and I blanched, cooled and dried them.

  See my little workspace? Yep, I used a salad spinner!

    Worked out great!

  We vacuum-sealed them with our Foodsaver-dealy,

dated them and popped those bad boys in the freezer.

Meanwhile, the beets finished processing and we took them our to cool.

You have to wait 24 hours to check the seal so they are still sitting on my counter currently.

Ahh… all done. Thank goodness! I’m really hoping to do some more canning soon. Peaches, tomatoes, tomato sauce and other veggies are all calling my name. I’ll keep you updated on the progress. Maybe I’ll get to the market on Saturday! Until then, happy canning!

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