Thursday, July 30, 2009

Adventures In Canning - Part 2

The corn is almost ready, but in the meantime I have plenty of other goodies to pick, wash, cook and/or freeze. The guys love pickled banana peppers and jalapenos (awesome on pizza) so I've already got the first batch of those done. We let our first cutting of broccoli wait a day or two longer than we should have, so it was a little past it's time (now we know better), but I have a freezer full of green peppers.

All the tomato plants (we have 26) are loaded, but they're all still green. Hubby asked me about making some relish and after some research I chose a recipe for a green tomato relish, which he thought sounded wonderful (eeeww). We certainly have plenty of tomatoes, and I figured why not use some of them now since there's no way we'd be able to eat them all when they start turning red (or pink actually).

So the plan was laid for green tomato relish.... my recipe called for 24 large tomatoes so I decided to half it (6 pints instead of 12 for the full recipe). A trip to the store yielded a fresh supply of jars and lids, necessary spices (which I had to go to two stores for), and the other few ingredients I needed. While in the first store, I noticed the pretty new pressure canners on the shelf. I've never owned a pressure canner (or pressure cooker) and I really, really wanted one. Do not ask me why I wanted one.... I knew very little about pressure canning veggies, but I did know that it was the only safe way to home preserve vegetables due to their low acid content. I was only really familiar with the boiling water method of canning, and it had been a while since I'd done that. After a whiny moment and lots of made-up reasons why I really needed one, Tommy finally gave in and loaded the shiny new pressure canner in the cart (yay!). I think the part about every "REAL farmer's wife needs a pressure canner" got him. He loves it when I call him my REAL farmer :-)

We got up early this morning and had a yummy breakfast of country ham and home-made biscuits (courtesy of my in-laws who sent them home with us last night). Off to the garden before Tommy had to clock in. It rained again last night so the garden was muddy. Muddy garden=muddy produce. I did not allow that to dampen my spirits. I would simply have to spend a little more time washing everything, no biggie. Tommy did all the picking in the mud and loaded me up with plenty of green tomatoes and peppers. On the way home I psyched myself up for the exciting process of making relish with stuff from our garden and just couldn't wait to get started. I had everything laid out and orderly - kitchen all organized neatly - and sipped on my coffee while the sink filled with cool water. I almost felt like a prairie wife, getting ready to preserve her harvest so her family wouldn't starve over the winter. Well, at least they would have relish.

The process of getting everything washed and laid out on clean towels to dry was just so quick and simple. I was elated at how pretty all those veggies looked, and in my awe, completely forgot to take a picture. Later I will wish I'd taken a picture...

Cutting board and food processor ready.... the mess, large mess begins. I chose to chop the onions first. I spent the rest of the time chopping veggies completely blind. What was I thinking? I finally managed to finish the chopping only to find that the large mixing bowl I was putting everything in was running over (just not large enough). I began to wonder if it would fit in my large (very large), cheesecloth lined colander for the required drain time of 1 hour. No way was it supposed to fit, but I MADE it fit by mounding it up on itself - hopefully it will drain enough this way.... then I realized that if this mess of chopped veggies wouldn't fit into my extra large colander, no way would it fit into my largest stockpot. Now mind you my largest pot isn't huge, but I never dreamed it would be too small for a HALF-recipe of this relish. It was too small.

Quick trip to Kroger to grab another pot - I think I remember seeing them there and it's the closest store to my house. Get there to find the prettiest yellow enamel stockpots. Buy one. Go home THEN read the directions on the pot. DO NOT USE ON GLASS TOP STOVES. Great. I have a glass top stove. Wonder WHY I can't use this pot on a glass top stove? I AM using this pot on a glass top stove. Still 20 minutes left on the drain time so I grab a diet coke and look at the clock again. What? After 11 am? No way is at almost noon already?

Geez, I need to get going here. I thought I'd be done already. I measure the remaining ingredients into the stockpot and very carefully unmound the chopped veggies into the pot. It all fit, but with no room to spare. I sure hope I have a spoon large enough.... YES, a long wooden spoon will be perfect. Add heat slowly so the sugar won't burn and stir constantly.... and then I learn why these pots are not great for glass top stoves. It's a good thing I did not walk away for even a second, because the slightly raised rim around the bottom of the pot was the only part of the pot coming in contact with the stove. It took a while for the heat to distribute throughout the pot and if I'd not been paying very close attention - - well, the entire batch would have been quickly burned. Whew! Disaster averted!

I had several minutes to stand on one place (stirring and stirring) and glance around my kitchen. Oh my goodness! What happened in here! No one warned me how messy canning is. Those of you who know me well are laughing at this point. I have anxiety when my kitchen is out of order. I am one of those who has all the dishes washed BEFORE the last person finishes eating. I don't mind small messes, but I am on top of those messes and clean them before other messes are made. I love to keep a very clean and efficient kitchen. It just makes me feel good. Anyway, I now know this is a notion you must abandon while canning. And I thought my kitchen was a mess at this point, but it got worse, way worse.

Once all the ingredients were hot and blended, I took a breath of relaxation while I finished stirring for the required 5 minutes of simmer time. It's looking pretty and smelling good.... I might make it through this after all. Jars are sterile and being kept hot in the oven (that was a cool tip I read somewhere). When it's time, I gently lift the baking sheet containing my 8 pint jars (I put in 2 extra- just in case) and set them on the counter. So far, so good. Grab the canning funnel and drop it in the first jar. Oh crap. I forgot to boil my lids. Another pan, lids in, scoot stuff around on stove to make room for one more pan (the pressure canner is already on another burner getting hot - and it's a rather large vessel). Tap, tap, tap my foot on the floor.... waiting for the lid water to boil. Hey, the canner water is now starting to boil, so I will just drop the lids in there! They aren't supposed to be in boiling water for very long anyway.... so I pour the lids into the big pot (canner). Oh great. Now I need something to fish them out. Find a large spoon.... don't forget to stir the relish which is still on the heat.... where is a spoon?.... grab a little tongs.... they are small tongs, but I reach in after the first lid and they are deep in the water... fingers and all go in.... drop the tongs in the water while screaming and doing the burned finger dance. Grab more tongs AND a spoon and finally manage to get one lid out. Where do I put the lid? Darn, the jars aren't filled yet, but these lids can't stay in the boiling water. Grab the small pan back from the drainer and dunk it into the canner to half fill with water. Fish the lids out, throw them in the pan and squeeze it onto the stove somewhere. Got to fill these jars now... directions say all the way to the top... make sure all the air is out.... okay right....

All eight jars are full - and there's relish left - enough for probably three more jars. Okay, what now? Eight jars into the canner for their boiling water bath - that's all that will fit - 30 minutes. Get three more jars ready for the rest of this relish. I am laughing OUT LOUD by now.... and my kitchen is covered in sticky relish juice!

I have a new respect for grandmothers and mothers everywhere who do this on a regular basis. I've called and reminded my husband about the Aunt Bee's Pickles (Andy Griffin) episode and warned him that he needs to tell me how wonderful this relish is even if he hates it. And we don't even want to talk about how much each pint actually cost!

FINALLY! 11 pints of relish (see pic above) made by ME, from produce raised by my husband, with my new pressure canner and stock pot. It is well after 2 pm and I haven't even started cleaning the kitchen, but the jars sure do look pretty!


  1. wow Karen didn't know you were such a domestic diva! We're back in Arizona and hot weather. Hope you are having a great week and that the shop is empty.

  2. Hi Karen,
    Glad to see your comment on my blog. I keep checking to see if you have a new post. Hope all is well with you and yours.

  3. Hello Miss Karen.... surely you are not still canning from this summer... please share a little something with us bloggers - we want to see what you're working on ;)

    Miss you! Love from Texas! ~bonnie