Canning Today & Tomorrow-
I jumped into canning today! After searching all over for some decent pickling cukes, and finding some, I chose to do my pickles today. Got a nice, fresh batch, about 8 lbs. Since it was almost 20 degrees cooler today (about 80 when I started) and cloudy, it was great! I do stream canning (only for high acid foods, so please no comments) outside, since my glass-topped range can't handle the long term heating of other methods. It's a good compromise for me. While I have a small dehydrator and chest freezer, I also like canning. I started for the first time last summer, and feel much more comfortable this year.
Last year I did pickles, home-grown organic applesauce and apple butter. I LOVE the steam canner since I can use it outside and minimize the heat in the kitchen. While it's still hot in the kitchen from boiling jars, brine, rings and lids, at least the actual canning is outside. I did a lot of research before I bought a steam canner, and man that stuff is BOILING when you bring it out! I follow the directions very meticulously on the timing, etc.
I used a basic Ball Blue Book recipe for dill pickles. I did some with slices of jalapeno (no seeds) for a little hotter pickle, and some "kosher style" with bay leaf & garlic. Last year I used 50% more pickling spices and everybody RAVED about the flavor. I used a little home grown dill and some mustard flowers. I use our propane camping stove on our glass patio table.
Once the steam comes out of the little hole in a steady stream then you start the timing. I use the same basic canning times on all recipes. Coordinated timing is the big thing- have the canner ready so the brine goes on the cukes, lids on, and into the canner fast. All done! Today I did 8 qts. and 2 pints. I used all the cukes, and was done in about 1 1/2 hours. It always takes longer to set up, make the brine, clean the cukes, clean up, etc. than the actual canning does. I might do more, maybe some sweet ones next time...
Tomorrow canning will be- Pickled Green Beans and Peach Jam (I'll use less sugar). I found the beans at the regular grocery store (no local yet) and the peaches at a farmy-type stand. I got 10 lbs. of peaches (from Cali. but fairly ripe). I have no idea why pickled green beans are $7.00 a jar? Really? That's insane, so I'm making my own! My canning goals this year -peach and blackberry (homegrown) jams, tomatoes (home grown). Whatever apples and nectarines we get from our trees I will use for something. I finished some salsa while the canner ran. I used local tomatoes, purple onion, jalapeno, salt, and wine vinegar yesterday. I didn't have any cilantro, so got some today with the beans and tossed it in!
The basil's is getting BIG! I started these babies from seed, inside, this spring. I smell pesto soon...
Tour of My Pantry-
Last year Dave and I converted a bedroom closet (took about an hour) to a pantry, and what a good idea! Here's a little tour to inspire anyone out there that, yes, you can find some space somewhere! I try to keep a good variety of proteins (beans and fish), condiments, veggies, fruits, drinks, sweeteners, baking supplies, grains and paper products. I keep things like bottled water, instant foods, and Pilot Bread for real emergencies. Pilot Bread can be used in place of bread for sandwiches, of sorts. The pickles are in, and I made space for the next jars coming in the next few weeks-
Nature Always Finds a Way-
I had pruned our front sumac tree from storm damage last month. I had to choose to have a bare 3' branch in the front/middle (and hope it grew back), OR I could cut it off completely and have one sad looking tree. Being an optimist, I left the 3' branch. A month later it's all filled in!!! Nature finds a way :) I actually have to do a strategic pruning job to have it look good later. Ironic huh? :) I'm a Master Gardener, so that training comes in handy! We're getting ready for camping soon, and we haven't gone in over 5 years. I need some time off!
Anya playing with a paper bag, again:)