Today I spent a delightful afternoon with Kay, a long-time friend from Friday Lunch Bunch.
I mentioned that I was trying to learn to can food using both the hot water bath method and the pressure canning method. I knew that Kay was a canner (if you’ll pardon the expression). I asked her if it would be really annoying if I came over and watched (and hopefully helped) her the next time she planned to can something. Luck was with me! She agreed to let me watch her, and told me that she was planning to can green beans and tomato sauce this afternoon!
I rode home with her from Lunch Bunch. My husband had agreed to come pick me up at Kay’s house when I called him later.
I’ve read a lot on canning and had a vague idea what was involved, but I’m a visual learner. It was truly wonderful to watch Kay at work, visiting as she did each step, with me scribbling down notes as each step came and went.
She told me several good tips that she’s learned over the years. She answered questions, and some of the things she did brought up others. She said I could call if I had other questions.
Kay used the pressure cooker to can the green beans (a low acid veggie.) She gathers the beans from her garden (she also has friends who bring her veggies, plus she goes to the Farmer’s Market, as I do.) She washes the beans, cuts them up, dries them and freezes them in ziplock freezer bags until she has enough to can. (She was using beans from two different freezer bags this afternoon. She showed me how to bring them up to temperature by cooking them in a large granite pot. While they were getting hot, she had the jars she was going to use soaking in hot water in the sink. She put the lids in a small pan with hot water and good them good and hot, as well.
When the veggies were hot, she used a funnel to get the beans into the jars. She puts a half teaspoon of sea salt into the bottom of each jar before adding the veggies. She ladles the beans into a jar, packs them down a bit with a wooden spoon, then ladles in the hot bean water into the jar up to the place where the screw lid fits. She uses tongs to pick up a lid from the boiling water, puts the lid into a screw cap, puts the lid and screw cap onto the full jar, then picks up the jar with a tea towel and tightens the screw lid on as tightly as she can by hand. The jar goes into the pressure cooker on an insert round tray in the bottom of the pressure cooker. Her cooker holds 4 pint jars. When she has them in the pressure cooker, she adds some water, then fastens on the top of the cooker and puts it on the stove to build up pressure until the regulator ‘jingles.’ Then she set a timer for 10 minutes. She watched the cooker from time to time turning the heat down because the regulator was jingling too fast. When the timer went off, she moved the pressure cooker off the burner to cool by itself.
When the regulator hisses only a bit minutes later, she took off the top and used a jar lifter to move the jars from the cooker to a towel on the counter. As the jars got cool enough, each would say, “POP!” as the top made a good seal, being sucked down onto the jar. What an exciting sound!
She did two batches of green beans and then a batch of tomato sauce using the hot water bath method.
She used a juicer to prepare the tomatoes, putting in a whole handful of small tomatoes directly into the juicer. The juicer put the pulp, seeds, and skin on one side while pouring the juice into a container on the other side. She processed all of the tomatoes this way, then ran the pulp/seeds/skin stuff through the juicer one more time. This saves a LOT of effort, making the prep of the tomatoes easy.
As this point, she said you could simply freeze the juice to be canned later, or go ahead and do your batch. She combined the fresh juice she has just made with a frozen batch, heating both together in the granite pot. She filled the jars with the hot juice, the way she did with the beans. She put the jars into a neat insert in the large canning pot. She can do 7 at a time. When the jars have been boiling for 10 minutes, she uses the insert to pick up all the jars out of the water at once, then uses the jar lifter from there. They cool on the counter, popping as the seals show they’re good.
She had a few beans left today, plus a bit of tomato sauce. She put the leftover into a bag, let it cool for a bit and then will put it in the freezer, to wait until the next batch is done.
What an interesting and fun way to learn the basics of how to can! I have a good idea of what I’m supposed to do now. I had fun visiting with my friend, who has a great sense of humor. Her son – who makes Kay look like she fell in a hole – was great fun, too. Kay even gave me some tomatoes, and a small, white “Scallop” Squash. I’ve never seen or heard of these before. Kay says they’re really good sliced thinly, coated with a bit of flour and fried. I’m going to try this tonight!
I felt like a little kid on a new adventure, with a whole new world opening!