Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The art of Canning

It seems like just a few weeks ago that we planted our tomato seeds and waited patiently for the plants to emerge from those tiny little cells to which they had been assigned. I can't believe the number of plants that Mac actually had survive. I think at last count there was something like 84 tomato plants in the garden. Part of them are determinate, which only set fruit once then the plants are kaput, part indeterminate, which set fruit up until fall. You might ask why we'd want any tomatoes that only set fruit once, and I'd tell you because those are the ones I have found best for canning, both in quality and quantity. I have been canning tomatoes for three weeks now and I am here to tell you, I am heartily sick of tomatoes. My hands burn from the acid that seem to leech through the plastic gloves I don to scald and skin them, my arms ache from lifting heavy batches from the canner, and my nose is numb to all other smells but tomato. I smell tomatoes in my sleep. Granted, those lovely glass jars of ruby ripe tomatoes will come in handy and be appreciated this winter when some are wanting tomato gravy or hot vegetable soup, but right now, it's just dog gone hard work. I try not to take shortcuts when preserving food that might affect the quality of the end result or poison any of us by accident. You have to be very careful. I have a pressure cooker that I use for foods that are not as acidic as the tomatoes are, but people, the thing frankly gives me the heebie jeebies. I take it out of the shed and put it in the kitchen at least two full days before I plan to can using it rather than the coldpack canner. I read all about the pressure dial, how many pounds of pressure to use for what foods for how long. I take a deep breath and start filling jars with homemade vegetable soup, or cabbage, green beans or butter beans....have my chair sitting in front of the stove, fill the pressure cooker with seven quart jars filled with heavenly veggies, put on the lid, set the gauge, turn the burner on high, wait for the pressure to begin to rise, take my seat in the chair so I can watch the gauge carefully, never letting it go above the pressure weight and start timing it. I wring my hands, and pray that the whole shootin' match doesn't end up as something I have to a. wipe from the ceiling or b. remove from the roof of the house. Pressure cookers are notorious for blowing a gasket, so to speak. My Aunt Della, who loved to can her own spaghetti sauce, often had us children sitting in the chair in front of the stove to watch the little gauge which sits somewhat haphazardly on top of the canner lid. She told us to yell loudly if the gauge went higher or lower than, lets say 10 pounds of pressure...often we yelled to late and spaghetti sauce would be dripping from the kitchen's ceiling and the children assigned to do the pot watching would be cowering in any corner they could find as far away from the stove as they could get. I never volunteered to watch the pressure cooker. I was often drafted, and I admit I was a draft dodger on several occasions. I just felt that any chore that gave me nightmares and not one cent of profit was made by it, was a bum deal. Yet, here I am, ready to go to the shed and bring out the dreaded pressure cooker. I'll let you know how it went on Saturday morning...I should be sober by then.



32 comments:

Jeni said...

You're already canning tomatoes? Holy rip! And here I am excited that I saw two blossoms on my tomato plants yesterday and am thrilled to pieces that so far, they've all survived and are still growing! I have a few more blossoms now too on the pepper plants I have as well. Canning though -not something I've messed with since the summer of 1976, I was canning corn I think -not sure now -using the big canner I had and my ex and I both fell asleep watching the Democratic convention on tv but were rudely awakened because the canner boiled dry, if memory serves me and I think a jar exploded. Mainly all I recall is a very loud boom from the kitchen, a mess of some sort to clean up and I never went near the canning scene after that!

Lynn@ The Vintage Nest said...

Hi sweet Sandi, I used to use a pressure cooker all the time when I worked 9-5 everyday for rush meals and never thought anything of it. :) Thanks for the lesson on tomatoes. I never knew that inder and der stuff. My garden is on my deck this year due to the dear deer. So we only grew one tomato in one of those new fangled upside down thingies but I am here to tell you what a tomato plant that is. It's huge now and loaded with tomatoes. Should have my first BLT with them in a few days. I know what you mean about the rain. We woke this morning to the sweet sound of a gentle rain. Our grass was brown and parched. Heavenly rain! Come visit. I have been chopping and chopping and chopping too. ~ Lynn

Lib said...

Hey Sandi,
My Mom had a pressure canner blow up on her, and put the fear of God in us over them, so no pressure canning here.I take the slow route but get there!I Love canned toms. use them often in something I cook.
Happy canning:o)
Blessins',Lib

Akelamalu said...

I used tinned tomatoes a lot but I would love to be able to say I canned them!

Merisi said...

Sober by Saturday? *giggle*
May I ask how you are feeling right now, Wednesday evening? ;-)

I once managed to have a pressure cooker blow his gasket. I was an eleven year old kid, and was trying to "help" my mom (no, I was not drafted to watch). To this day I cannot remember what I was planning to do, beyond prying around the pot. At one point I succeeded in finagling it just enough to cause the built-up pressure in the pot to blow off the lid, and spew steam, liquid, and a whole boiled chicken up to the ceiling. I remember staring in amazement at the chicken up there, which seemed to slowly devest itself of its skin, then plunge naked back into the pot, leaving the skin stuck to the ceiling. At that point I started to scream and run out of the kitchen, trying to pull my soaking wet wool sweater off. I had third degree burns on both arms.

Kari (GrannySkywalker) said...

Ha! I remember Grandma's pressure cooker - she told me of the dangers...and I've never had the nerve to work one myself. LOL

Now you let me know how those tomatoes come out. I'm willing to bribe...er, I mean pay the postage plus a handling fee, for a few jars of home canned 'mators! (Or would I have to actually show up in your kitchen and pry Uncle Wally's hand off the jars in order to get a few. LOLOLOL)

You be careful now - don't blow a gasket or a fuse or anything else while you're working that pressure cooker, okay?

Love ya!
Sissy

Jules said...

You must have either an absolutely HUGE garden of extremely happy tomato plants, right?
Good luck with the canning. It can be a tough job.

SandyCarlson said...

The image of sauce dripping from the ceiling sure is something! What a memory. I can't believe you're already canning tomatoes.

Thanks for sharing the story.

Mary said...

Sandi
I am so jealous of your ripe toms I have lots of little tiny green ones but the weather isn't too kind at the moment so they are not ripening I'll keep going though as I want to make lots of tom sauce ready for the freezer I did manage some cherry brandy and strawberry jam last week though!!

Greg C said...

My mother would try to quick cool our pressure cooker and on several occasions almost scalded us kids to death, Canning is a lot of work but there is nothing like home grown tomatoes. If you run out of jars, try simply freezing them whole. When you need one, just put it inder warm water and after a few seconds, squeeze it and the skin will come righ off. Then cut out where the skin was attached and use it in whatever. I like to use them in chili.

Jodie Adams said...

My cousin and I had a horrible experience with a pressure cooker once. We were cooking chicken and got to running our mouths not paying attention. It was like a bomb went off and chicken was EVERYWHERE! Luckily the little pressure topper only hit me in the arm and not the face. I hate those things now. YUCK!!

Pam said...

I always dreaded canning time in my house but, thankful for all those canned veggies come winter. Just thinking about canning brings back some many memory scents. lol!

Anna said...

Oh Sandi you are a trooper, three weeks of canning, wow, I did red peppers batch for freezing for a day, and I smelled them funny for a year, lol. Thanks for sharing your wonderful canning story. Anna :)

Mima said...

Sandi I am always amazed by how much you guys do yourself. I have never even seen a canner used or a pressure cooker, and it sounds as if I have been missing out. I have a tiny little veg patch outside my window, and will consider it a success if we get a batch of 20 onions!! (Mind you if the weather keeps up we won't!)

Good luck with the canning, I wish you had a video or something so we could see you in action, it must be quite something to watch.

Sandy Kessler said...

The lABORIOUS TASK like organic juicing I do is sooo worth it on a cold winter night when you pull out the almost garden fresh soups..However even my devout country farm stock are moving away from canning. I can still taste it all.. sk

Lee said...

Totally understand that pressure cooker thing, Sandi! It's that very reason that I've never bought one.

Hope your day is going well. Glad you've got that new pantry to put up those cans of tomatoes in. :)

Hugs!

GoneBackSouth said...

I'm really impressed by your willingness to put all that effort in! I love tomatoes but I lazily buy them from the shop.

joan said...

Hi Sandi,

Wow, you amaze me with all you do girl. I have used a pressure cooker before so I know what you are talking about. It will be nice when you are all done and see all those cans all lined up in your pantry for the winter though.

Katherines Dream said...

OMG Sandi....so many! I only have 5 pots...and guess what happened to the first show..nice and big they were too!
Fred the naughty grandson was very quiet...Nanny...look...he had picked them still green and wanting to be left alone...I have them on the kitchen window sil now and hoping they turn red.
Send us over a few willya!
Carol xxxx

smilnsigh said...

I have memories of my mother canning! The hot kitchen. The pressure cooker, which gave me the hee-bee-jeeb-ies toooooo!

And I have never attempted to can, in my life.

So I'll just say that it's because of the *awful* memories. Does that absolve me for my laziness? ,-)

Hugs,
'Miss' Mari-Nanci
{Yes, I am channeling my inner "Southern Lady Of A Certain Age"!!! Gonna' call myself "Miss Mari-Nanci" from now on. If I can't get people up here, to call me that, I shall call myself that! So there!!!} :-)
Smilnsigh blog

Brenda said...

I want to welcome you to our photo challenge. I hope you have fun!

Our tomatoes are nothing like they've been in prior years. Hubby had an injury to his foot that took weeks to heal and he didn't get to plant and treat, etc,, as he usually does. I doubt I'll do much canning this year.

I love my pressure cooker! It does not have a pressure gauge but a weighted disc type thingy that you set on in different ways for the pressure you want. When it starts jiggling the pressure's up and you turn the burner down a bit just to keep the pressure thingy jiggling a few times a minute. Not scary at all.

Donna said...

Geez....What I wouldn't GIVE to bite into a garden grown tomato right now...my plants are dead from the heat...Geez, that's a lot of Hard work!!!!hughugs

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

Canning with a pressure cooker is not for wimps. This brought back many memories of my childhood and sticky summer days with my mother on full tilt in the kitchen. You're a brave one, Sandi, and I can't believe that you've been doing this for three weeks. Ackkk! Give some of those tomatoes away. Mac really does have a green thumb, doesn't he!

ancient one said...

Congrats on the tomatoes and the canning! I'd hoped to get a few jars canned this time, but all our plants are wilted and so pitiful looking.. we needed rain... just getting a few to eat now. I have a pressure canner with the weighted disk thingy on top. I've had it many years now.. so far so good!

~Kristen~ said...

OK, Sandi, now I think I am afraid to learn how to can things!!! LOL :-) But I did get quite a chuckle reading about you kids being made to be the pressure cooker watchers!!! Actually I have never done any canning of any kind (not that I have a garden anyway) but I just always thought it would be fun. Now I am skeeeerred!!! :-)

Laura @ Laura Williams' Musings said...

I love canning but hate the canner with the weights on them. They scare me to death. I prefer my other one which has a gauge on it.

I also want to invite you to participate in the first edition of the The Carnival of Home Preserving that will be posted at Laura Williams' Musings on Monday July 14th.

http://laurawilliamsmusings.blogspot.com/2008/07/introducing-carnival-of-home-preserving.html

It is a Carnival to Share Recipes and How-To's for Canning, Freezing, Dehydrating (drying), and Root Cellaring of Fruits, Vegetables, and Herbs.


Deadline to Submit: every Sunday at 2pm EST

Carnival is to be posted by that Monday on the respective Host's blog.



Link To Submit Post: Blog Carnival Submission
http://blogcarnival.com/bc/submit_4663.html

Everyone is welcome to join in.

Laura

Jamie Dawn said...

I love tomatoes, but I think I'd be sick of them too after all you've gone through.
Pressure cookers are scary things. They put pressure on the cooker AND the cooker, so to speak.

San said...

Hilarious! Those pressure cookers give me the willies too. But home-canned, homegrown tomatoes in the dead of winter--a delicacy I envy.

DebraK from ~the Bunnies Bungalow~ said...

You have tomatoes already! Lucky thing! I would love to have a nice ripe one right now.

Those pressure cookers are scary. I had a small one I used to make roast beef. That was long ago. If I had one today I'd probably be terrified to use it!

In the chill of winter you'll be so glad for those yummy tomatoes, Hugs, DebraK

Mrs. Darling said...

Oh my goodness, my tomato plants are only knee high!

Im with you on that pressure canner. I still use the old water bath one even if it means I have to boil green beans for three hours!

Terri and Bob said...

I am so jealous. I love canning tomatoes and since I have learned that canned tomatoes are even better for you than fresh, I have been sold! I have eaten 4 fresh tomatoes off one bush but I won't have any more for awhile.

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