Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Canning Experiment

For over three years, I have dreamt about canning. I fantasized about having so many fruits or veggies in the summer that you just threw them in a pot and began canning. Then, when winter came around, you'd pull one of the jars out of the cabinet in the kitchen and be transported to a warmer, happier time. I bought much of the equipment years ago, as well as cookbooks and even took a pickle making class. But, still, no canning.

Until last weekend.

My new roommate learned to can with her mother. She also brought enough pears, peaches, and other goodies to feed a small army from her parents farm on the Eastern Shore of VA. So, the time was finally right to learn how to can.

We went to a nearby hardware store to get the remainder of the supplies (namely, the can rack and pot for canning). We loved the store: Strosniders in Silver Spring MD. After being in Home Depot and Ikea almost every week for the last couple months, it was wonderful to go to a real hardware store. And, they had everything we needed - on sale!

Our plan (after a successful trip to the Greenbelt Farmer's Market):

- Pears in apple juice
- Peaches in apple juice with cinnamon and cloves
- Hot pickled green beans
- Pear butter

Here is the recipe for the pickled green beans, of course I can't recommend it yet since we haven't tasted the goods. But it was very easy and looks good.

Spicy Green Bean Pickles (adapted from Okra Pickles from Preserving Summer's Bounty)

What You Need
- 5 cups water
- 3 cups vinegar
- 3 teaspoons celery seeds
- 6 quarts green beans (we cut the whole recipe and only did 1/3 of this)
- 24 baby onions (only had big onions, so we cut these up into small chunks)
- 6 garlic cloves
- 6 hot chili peppers (optional)

What You Do
1. Combine water, vinegar, and celery seed in a pot and bring to a boil.
2. Pack the green beans into a hot, scalded pint jar. In each jar, put 4 onions, 1 clove garlic, and 1 chili pepper.
3. Pour the boiling brine over the green beans, leaving 1/4 inch head space.
4. Seal and process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath.
5. Let ripen for several weeks before using.

So, it was a huge success and so much fun. See me below enjoying myself with the equipment:
We only lost one can (it cracked and broke in the canner). We did learn a very important lesson though. When canning, only make one type of good. Switching between the green beans, peaches, pears, and pear butter was difficult and left us with fewer cans of each. So, when our 1 can of peaches broke, we were both very disappointed.
But, we got some great looking cans out of it:

I definitely hope that we get to doing this again very soon.

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