Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I Can Can!

It was inevitable that when I started a garden I would need to learn how to can.  When the size of your garden matches the square footage of your house (and your dad lets the tiller get away from him a bit more each year), it really is a necessity.  I suppose if I hadn't planted three varieties of every vegetable available it would be a different story.  But what fun would that be?

I am currently being outnumbered by cucumbers.  This called for digging out my parent's old canner from their larder room and giving it a good scrub.  Jars were cleaned, vinegar and a multitude of spices were purchased (although I thought I owned pretty much every spice made), and cukes were picked and scrubbed 'til shiny.  I planted burpless, Chicago pickling, and a hybrid variety that could be used for either. 

The day began with my mom knocking on my front door, a bit earlier than I had expected.  She and my dad had already been out in the garden and picked all the cukes that were ready, as evidenced by the buckets full on my back porch.  My sister reminded me that back in the day when she was little they usually drug her out of bed at 6 AM to help; thankfully I missed out on that era.

We sliced, salted, and iced the cukes and waited three hours for them to soften.  Then we simmered it all together and stuffed the jars.  Fourteen pints later I had completed my first lesson in canning and had lots of bread and butter pickles to eat.  Just smelling the batch simmering on the stove made me feel like a kid again, enjoying Mom's homemade spaghetti, French bread with real butter, and the same pickles we were in the process of making sitting along the side of all of it. 

It's amazing how many things they know about canning, things I had never read in any of the five books I had been perusing over the last year.  Did you know that if you cut the cukes off the vine with a knife, leaving about a quarter inch of vine attached, that it promotes growth to the rest of the fruits? (rather than just twisting them off, which I had been doing).

Next we put up two gallons of what is supposed to be a knock-off of "those dill pickles you can buy in the refrigerated section of your grocery store".  As I packed the spears into the jars my dad pointed out that I should make sure that none of the raw edges of the pickles were set against each other, for this would cause somewhat of a seal, and the vinegar and spices wouldn't soak into the pickles as well.  I had Riley watch us and take pictures along the way, so he will at least have an inkling of this whole process when he gets old enough to be interested.

There are so many things in our garden that I would like to pickle this year; beets, carrots, onions, dilly beans.  Now that I've been handed down the basics I feel much better about journeying into this previously unknown canning world on my own.  I'm so thankful that my dad had family who shared all their recipes and tips with him so that he could pass it on to all of us.  Canning is somewhat of a lost art that is coming back "in style".  I've never been concerned about being hip, I just love to be in the kitchen, especially when it's with family.


Kristi Pohl said...

Oh I wish I could have been there! I just know you will save some of those jars full of goodness for me...

Rachelle said...

I'll say you can can! Love the pic of you and your Dad. Isn't it wonderful to get all those good pointers in person? Derrick's mom taught me to can dill pickles and she gave some great tips, too. Great post!