I’m no chef. In fact, I’m no cook. I’m one of those people who can ruin cookies (the kind you buy from the store and just put in the oven). The last place I should be writing is a food blog. However, since I became C’s girlfriend, I have begun cooking. And butchering chickens. And now canning. It’s funny how men can do that to you.
Last weekend’s adventure was canning. I staunchly refused to can this summer while at his house even though our garden was overflowing with fresh veggies. This refusal was partly because I envisioned this process as a nightmare of jars and steam and boiling water and vegetables and mystery ingredients. However, since I left, C got busy in the kitchen (with a little help from his mom and grandma) and started canning. It turns out it’s not that hard. So with him in charge, I canned my first veggies. Or rather, I assisted.
The first step is to sterilize the jars, lids, and rings. In a big pot, steam the jars and in a saucepan, boil the lids and rings. According to C, “If you have nothing else to do, boil more water. You’ll need it for something.”
We started by making salsa and canned tomatoes. First, blanch the tomatoes in boiling water. Then place them in cold water. This quickly cooks them and makes them easy to skin. We chopped the tomatoes into quarters (for canned tomatoes) or smaller pieces (for the salsa).
Our salsa is a modified version of Fiesta Salsa from the Blue Book Guide to Preserving by Ball.
The original recipe calls for blending:
7 cups chopped seeded, peeled, cored, tomatoes
2 cups chopped, etc. cucumbers
1/2 cups chopped jalapeño peppers
2 cups banana peppers
1 cup sliced green onion
1/2 cup sliced, peeled roasted Anaheim peppers
¼ minced cilantro
3 cloves garlic minced
1 tsp. minced fresh marjoram
1 tsp. salt
½ cup cider vinegar
2 tbs lime juice
However, we left out the banana peppers, green onion, Anaheim peppers, and marjoram. We used 2 cups of jalapeños and lemon juice instead of lime.
Then we filled the jars, leaving 1/2” head room. After carefully placing on the lids and rings (so as not to contaminate them or burn yourself), the jars go back into a hot water bath to process. Process time depends on the recipe. Our salsa processed for 15 minutes. Carefully remove the jars from the water. We used a handy tool like this
As the jars cool, you will hear the “pop” of the seal.
Next we tackled the pickles. I was in charge of slicing. It’s not necessary to peel the cucumbers because they’re being pickled. Simply slice into hamburger rounds or into spears. We removed the seeds from some of the spears, especially if they were large.
We then used C’s great grandmother’s pickle recipe. I’m not about to divulge this family secret but in true homemade canning style, the recipe was “by the jar” so we simply put a few ingredients in each jar.
Then we packed them with the cucumbers as tightly as possible. This keeps the veggies from floating to the top when the liquid is added (floating as well as not filling the jars full enough can interfere with the processing).
Meanwhile in a sauce pan we heated water, vinegar, and salt. This pickling mixture was then poured over the cucumbers. Since the mixture has to fill in around the cucumbers, it is necessary to make sure that there aren’t any air bubbles. We used a special “tool” that also measured the head room but a spatula works just as well. Then we capped the jars and processed again.
On our pre-canning shopping trip, we supplemented our own garden produce with some grocery stores peppers and a local farmer’s tomatoes, and okra. So with these leftover veggies (we bought way too many peppers), we continued pickling jalapeños, Serrano peppers, and okra.
*Note* Sam is a great friend of mine from grad school. She is an accomplished photographer and talented writer. She teaches college English in Western Kansas. Maybe she’ll start her own blog soon…