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Canning Adventures, Part Two

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Subtitle: In which I actually start doing SOME things right the first time :)

Okay, yesterday after my return from my happy place (IKEA), I decided to can some dilled pickle chips for burgers. I'd read (and reread) recipes from the Ball Blue Book and the Ball Complete Book of Preserving. After dinner, I tidied the kitchen to make space for my various canning accoutrements. Fine. I've gone over the steps. Fine. I start a pot of simmering water for the lids and simmering water in the canner for the jars. Because I don't have the proper canning rack for my size jars (half-pint), I decided to try the dish towel method kindly suggested to me by other hounds. Got it sopping wet and placed it at the bottom of the canner. Fine. While the water is coming to a simmer, I wash the jars, lids, and bands. Place the jars in the canner, the lids in a separate pot, and start slicing my cucumbers. Well, I didn't have the 4-6 inch cukes (Kirby, I think)--didn't see them at the farmer's market. Instead, I bought the slenderest organic ones I could find, which did taste great. It really was more about learning and practicing technique at this point. Well, the dish towel is billowing and a couple of the jars have tipped over. Tried to upright them with the jar turner, but was too uncoordinated for that, so I left them. Got my vinegar, water, and canning salt together into yet another pot. And we're off. Not. The power goes out and I have an electric stove. I notice that my neighbor's garage lights are out, so I assume this is a local outage and not something unique to my house. Report the outage. About 20 minutes later, power is back on. Turn up the heat to bring the lids and jars back up to the proper temperature. Okay, so far so good. Bring the water/vinegar mixture to a boil. Start removing the jars, fill them with cukes, add pickling spice and dill heads. Once all four are done (I've basically quartered a variation of the recipe in the Ball Blue Book), I pour the hot vinegar solution into the jars, leaving the 1/4-in headspace. This time I actually remember to remove the air bubbles! Put the lids on, add the bands, and place each in the water bath canner. One of the jars tips over and, once again, I have trouble uprighting it. Oh, buck it, I decide. Turn up the heat to bring to a full boil and sit down in the living room, immersing myself in my buy-of-the-day, Swedish Cooking, which I got for 99 cents at IKEA. Engrossed in my book until I hear the sounds of water sputtering. Go into the kitchen to see the water boiling over and out of the canner onto the stove. Yikes. Turn off the heat on the canner, or so I think. Instead, I accidentally turned the heat on under the burner that held the pot that held the lids. Also, for some reason, there is a foam on top of the water in the canner. Wtf? And my kitchen smells like a laundromat. Ah, so I must've had some residual detergent on my dishtowel! Then I correct the heat situation, except now ( in the midst of my cleanup) I somehow let the canner go to BELOW a rolling boil. So I bring it to a boil again and restart the timer. I've probably overprocessed the jars. After the 15 minutes, I turn off the heat and let the jars rest in the canner for 5 minutes. Then I remove them. They look fine, except for the one that toppled onto its side. That one must've lost some liquid, because there's about 1/2 inch or so of open space at the top of the jar. The rest have what looks like the proper level of liquid. Okay, fine. All of the jars "popped", a most satisfying sound if there ever was one. And later on this afternoon, I'll test the seals. The one with the lowered liquid will probably go into the fridge, to be on the safe side. But I gotta say--I'm hooked on this! And I got some peaches at the market, so perhaps tonight I'll try peach jam!

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  1. nofunlatte, you are hilarious! Great story.

    Definitely do peaches. They are wonderful. I did peach jam (no sugar) for my mom last summer and she loved loved them. I did whole fruit (peach halves) for DH and me. Really good. I liked the Spicy Peach Halves recipe I got here last summer -- I think it was from morwen. Do search for that thread since it's a delicious recipe. I also did one variation of the Spiced Peaches -- I added bourbon to it. Really really good. I served that, heated to cook down the syrup, over ice cream for a mother's day brunch and everyone just raved over it.

    Good luck with your future endeavors. And I totally agree that it's easy to get hooked. I got hooked last year and this year I am trying to maintain some self control and not do too many items!!

    1. Oh, ps - I forgot to add about the kitchen towel. I cut an old kitchen towel to fit the bottom of my pot. I never thought to start boiling the water first without the jars in there already. Maybe that's why I've not had a problem with the towel moving around. Towel on bottom, all jars in there (and with water in them or they float up), then simmer. I read this year that one is supposed to do one jar at a time - take out, fill, put back in. That has greatly helped with keeping the towel in place since the other jars hold it down. Also, I keep a wooden spoon in there the whole time so that holds the towel down in the space of the "missing" jar that I am filling. I just watch to be sure that the wooden spoon doesn't affect the temp of the simmer.

      Hope some of that is helpful.

      5 Replies
      1. re: LNG212

        Thanks for the tip! And that popping sound of the jars? It's like crack!

        1. re: nofunlatte

          Truly it's like crack. And I love opening the jars when I'm ready to use them. The first time I went to open one (several months after first canning), I had to really pry that lid off and I felt so proud that the seal was so good!

          Okay, it's the little things in life or maybe I'm just easy to please! :)

          1. re: LNG212

            How do you pry it off? Fingernails? Serious question!

            BTW, looks like the peach jam will have to wait another day. I can't "be jammin'" until I finish an exam for tomorrow's class. And that ain't happening too quickly--reading chowhound and grilling seem to be taking precedence right now!

            1. re: nofunlatte

              Well, not really knowing, I used a spoon. It worked just fine. I put the tip of a regular teaspoon between the closest "thread" of the jar and the lid and just turned, sort of like a lever or something. Sometimes it took a bit to get it to pop off (and now I know to do this over the sink!!). I was afraid to use a knife and I'm glad I didn't try that.

              1. re: nofunlatte

                bottle opener or "church key".