Woo hoo! I did it! I got the supplies, bought some food, and actually got to work today.
I was hoping to start off with a simple recipe. I am not sure if I succeeded. I only have the waterbath canner so I couldn’t do too much with veggies besides tomatoes or other highly acidic fruit. I thought I’d do pasta sauce – the ingredients seemed to be pasta sauce. I missed one important step though where the tomatoes got strained so it is actually a tomato sauce recipe. I really have no idea what one does with this but I guess I’ll find out. For the 6 viable pint jars I yielded (the last one has too much headspace so I don’t think it’s safe), this was an awful lot of work!
My recipe started out simple enough. It’s from the Ball Book of preserving, a source I trust for starting out. As I was going along, I was forced to unearth my food processer, never something I relish doing as it means extra cleaning up steps. Oh well. But then I was supposed to strain out all the skins and seeds. Really? Would it be so awful to leave those in? I really don’t understand why that was necessary, but in the interst of not wasting food, I followed the recipe and the solid stuff got incorporated into tonight’s dinner.
So even after boiling it down, it’s still pretty watery. Do we drink it cold? Do we heat it up and use it with pasta? Seriously, what does one do with tomato sauce?
Ah well. I got through this initiation. At first, I kept forgetting something such as adding lemon juice to each jar or wiping down the top and rim after filling or wiping the interior edges with the spatula thingy, a step I find ridiculous with a total liquid but one which I dutifully performed nonetheless. So it’s been very validating to get through a whole process. The jars are pretty evenly spaced and cooling on my counter. Tomorrow evening, I’ll check the seals and label the lids with the date and contents, then find a place to store them. I had wanted to store my canned things in the top shelves of my cabinets for long-term storage, but then I read that canned things are best stored at 50-70 degrees Farenheit, so best not up high I suppose.
Perhaps I’ll be bold and simply leave them on my counter, announcing to all the world my industriousness!
As a side note, the other day, I went to the local book store to have a look at all the recipes for canning. I was not overly excited. I was inspired in the first place by the Canning USA website which has videos and loads of recipes. It was there that I was first made aware that you could can an entire meal; indeed there is an inspiring video of a delicious looking chili. But is that it? Is chili the only thing one can can that can be considered a self-contained meal? Or does everything one cans need preparation before it can be eaten? I am feeling just a little bit demoralized by this hole in my knowledge and am desperately seeking tips so please comment! The books I saw didn’t call to me; they seemed to be filled with recipes that weren’t very much how I deal with food. I was hoping I could just prepare stuff, pop it in jars, and use the pressure canning system to seal it up for later. Lasagne in a jar, anyone? Or a veggie side dish? Not doable? I mean, sure, I can do pickles, jams/jellies and pasta sauce, but is that really it? We aren’t chutney people. What about bean dishes? I understand rice falls apart. Is that a problem? What about brown rice? Would the nutrition still be in there? I really feel mystified even though I’ve been through the process once. I did find one person who said she used to can meat as a storage method. If we were ever without a food source for an extended period of time, I highly doubt I would take up hunting, so it would be super nice to have a supply on hand. Even better if the food could be eaten as is; no requirement for heating or baking or whatever. Am I dreaming?
Well anyway, I know I’ll be doing more canning. We have a citrus tree that will yield more fruit than we can possibly use before it spoils, so I’ll be doing up loads of marmelades or fruit slices or brandied fruit. And we’ll have a garden year round very soon and somehow there is always more than one can use right away so I intend to always sock away the excess for that future rainy day, dipping into the stores only as the deadline approaches or to sample one and ensure that it is okay.