Sunday, September 6, 2009

My First Canning Experience

Okay, so in the past 4 years, I've had 3 children, whom I love dearly. However, this has prevented me from ever getting a decent garden going. My husband and I have tried for the last 2 years. The first year I think we went too big. This past year we had a baby right in the middle of the summer, so we had no time to take care of stuff (even though we did go a lot smaller this year). The only thing we've had success with 2 years running is mint (how hard is that! it will go everywhere), rosemary, and garlic. The garlic has been my favorite, but that's another post altogether.

Okay, so we did not get a good crop of anything this year. So off we went to the farmers market to get some stuff to put away, while we had the money to do it. We have gotten (total) 1 bushel of peaches, 1/4 bushel of okra, 3 quarts worth of green beans, and 1/4 bushel of squash.
The peaches were what I started with. Seemed simple enough. The book said, peel, slice/dice, cook in syrup, put into jars and boil for 20-25 minutes. Okay. Well the first 1/2 bushel took me 6 hours to can 6 quarts of peaches. The second took only about 3 hours, so it does get a little easier, but let me note that peaches are a pain in the rear to prep for canning.

In between the two peach canning (successful) attempts, I thought I would get to the okra before it went bad (or Ryan fried it all). So I pulled out my pressure canner (bought at a yard sale about a year ago and been in a box in the closet since then) and started reading. Again, seemed simple. Prep, fill the clean jars, put into canner, and cook the appropriate amount of time (I think it was 10 minutes). I chopped up 7 pints worth of okra, cooked according to directions, fill the jars, and into the canner they go. But when I locked the lid into place, steam was still coming around the sides. It finally slowed down and was coming out the top, so I let it heat up as instructed, then put the weight on. But no jiggling. Not a peep. Not sure what I did wrong, but I decided (though it was tough, until I thought about someone getting sick) to toss all that okra. I felt bad because I had already given a jar to a family member, but I made sure to call him and let him know to toss it because I wasn't sure if I did something wrong or not. If you have some tips on this, please let me know.
Until I get it figured out, all veggies (short of tomatoes, or pickled stuff) will be frozen or dried (we did get 1 pint jar full of dried okra, and 3 so far out of the squash).

By the way, squash chips are a great snack, and my kids love them (we're talking yellow crookneck squash) because they are sweet. Good as a snack mix with rasins, seeds, and cereal peices.

Next project: Making my own sourdough bread starter, and hopefully some good bread. Will keep you posted.

The book I keep referring to above is call KEEPING THE HARVEST. The link is to look at/purchase the book on You can get a used copy pretty cheap. I want another book, haven't decided which one yet. This one is good for basics though.

The photo is 3 pints of spiced peaches, and 1 half-pint of peach/apple/strawberry jam.

**Useful tip, right after you pull your jars out of the canner, use a black crayon to write the contents and the date on the top. That way you know whats in it, and it will help you remember not to reuse the lids)**