Sep 5, 2009

A day in the life of an amateur canner

Canning; my mom did it, her mother did it and on back through the generations. So it is only natural that I too would have the instinct to want to put up food in glass jars for future eating and the satisfaction that I too am preserving this seasons harvest for later enjoyment. Or something like that.
To me canning is the ultimate test in multi-tasking. Having jars hot, lids hot, syrup hot, canner hot, fruit ready all at the same time in limited space with no help, one can only feel like a truly successful (or completely insane woman) at the end of a canning day.
Last year marked my first attempt at canning and I must admit day one ended in tears and plenty of ill feelings towards my husband who spent the day hunting leaving me home with 2 boxes of peaches an a 5 month old baby. But I persevered and survived and came back stronger this year to give it another go.
So for all those who are contemplating canning or are beginner canners, or for those who are more seasoned perhaps you might recall days gone by that were similar to this experience.

Canning Peaches
The process actually begins the night before in Wal-Mart on a trip out of town for a baseball game with a screaming 16 month old because it is nearing 10PM and she has had only a 45 minute nap for the whole day. We are looking for the canning supplies. Why must every stinking Wal-Mart put things in a different place? Could not for the life of me find the canning supplies nor by that time did I care anymore anyway. Add in a cashier who looked at my crying child and said, "she seems to be having a rough time" and then proceeds to scan our items at a snails pace adding in unnecessary chit chat along the way. "Thank you Wal-Mart cashier for helping the situation." I digress.
The day of canning begins with a scan of the box of peaches acquired 2 days before. "Great, part of the peaches are spoiling." What to do? Are they usable? Who to call for answers? Who else but my mother; the canning expert in my eyes. (Side note, I learned after my first canning experience why my mom always canned through the night while there were no interruptions, the house was cooler and all children were asleep and there was no one to see the tears should they happen to flow). My mom tells me what to do about the spoiled peaches.
Then it begins:
-small fry down for a nap
-kick into warp speed
-water onto boil to blanch peaches
-jars washed in hot water and put in a sink of hot water
-blanch peaches
-peel peaches while canner goes on to begin to heat
-why are some of the peaches peeling easier than others? And why is it that a peach can be so ripe on the top it is spoiling and not ripe enough to peel off the skin on the bottom. Ughhh
-make the simple syrup
-back to the peaches, start slicing peaches.
-more slicing
-still more slicing (great what looked like only enough for one canner load now looks like it might make 2) Wasn't planning on that. Should be grateful right?
-find the lids, get them in some hot water
-Great not enough simple syrup. Add more water and sugar and boil some more.
-Start filling jars
-Add the syrup, put on the lids screw on the rings and repeat and repeat and repeat.
-Great I forgot to remove the air bubbles before putting on the lids. Now what?
-Call to the expert mother once again. Phone is busy. I will try again in a minute.
-Fill remaining jars and remove the air bubbles this time. Now what about all these left over peach slices. How long will they last? What to do with them until it is time to can again. I'll ask my mom. Call home again. Still busy. How can it be busy?
-Fill the canner with peaches (totally forgot I was going to ask about the air bubbles). Wait for water to come to a boil again. Begin to clean up. Call home again. Still busy. Doesn't she know I am canning here, how can the phone be busy for this long. She needs call waiting for sure.
-Can't waste any down time. Check my crock of pickles and remove the scum (yes it is okay that there was scum). Clean my crock of pickles and the plates. Run outside to start removing the handles from the dresser that I need to prime and paint for small fry's new room. Come back in, try calling home again. Still busy. Fine I will have to figure this out on my own. I leave the extra peaches and decide to start a second canner load when the first is done.
-The time passes and the allotted time is up. Jars come out.
-Bing Small fry cries and needs to get up.
-Ding round two begins this time only with small fry under my feet as well as the cooling racks, a pizza pan, jar lids, a spoon, sippy cup, toaster oven rack (the girl really likes racks), bread pans now are on the floor too. I keep her happy by offering small bites of apple in between filling jars and putting on lids. This time at least I don't have to slice all those peaches. I get 4 more jars in the canner and it is now time to make lunch. Sigh a big sigh and move on to the next task and mess. Always seems like there is a mess. And a sink of dishes. All part of the fun.
And why you ask would one put herself through all of this? For this:
7 beautiful jars of peaches. That is right I said 7. Well plus the 4 that are still in the canner as I type cooling down slightly so I can take them out. All of that work for 11 jars. If you are my mom that is only a small fraction of what is to come throughout the night.
Are we all nuts? Probably. Nuts, brave and strong and driven by some inner desire to see shelves full of shiney jars. I'm hooked now. It will take a long time before I can do it like my mom but it appears there is no turning back.
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  1. Love your canning play by play. Can totally relate. Why do we do it? I've read that every mother needs something she can do that doesn't get undone-laundry and cleaning don't fit that description. Canning is so satisfying and productive and useful. Beware-it is truly addicting.

  2. Your mother is having a great time reading all this, sorry I was on the phone with Pat Asher. I got my 20 pints of green beans done while I was talking, well the beans snapped. I am exhausted. I agree with the previous comment, we can have the pleasure of seeing the product on our shelves, and then enjoy again when hubby and daughter eat those peaches in the winter and enjoy them so much. And won't it be fun, when suddenly everyone had to do canning and you are way ahead of the game. It is a very rewarding exercise, and I am so glad that I can do it during the day now. Your time for that will come. Love, Mom

  3. I love it!! It is amazing what we put ourselves through sometimes, but the end result is always so rewarding. Great job!!

  4. This year is going to be my first year canning. And after reading your post, I decided to wait until my mother-in-law comes in 2 weeks so she can help me! I love reading your blog and seeing all your cute ideas!

  5. Wow, that looks like a lot of work. I'm intrigued, though -- is it a cheaper alternative to buying fruit in the winter months, or is it more of a taste preference?


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