Monday, August 17, 2009

The Canning Learning Curve

I may be thirty-something years old, but this whole canning thing is new to me. No one in my family canned, and prior to this year's garden I had only made jam once or twice in all my years.

It seems as though the learning curve for canning can be quite steep. As I mentioned in an older post the first time I did pickles that required a salt soak I added it (the salt) to the recipe, and used additional slat for the soak, OOPS! I still find the directions on pickles unclear, maybe it's just my Mommy brain. Anyway, this weekend I had a couple more snafu's: I learned that tomatoes lose a lot of volume after being peeled and chopped (read as 'couldn't complete canning recipe due to lack of tomatoes'), and after following a Sweet Pickle Relish recipe to the tee I ended up with 6 half-pint jars instead of the "about 8 half-pints" it was supposed to make. Hmm.

And lets not forget all the jars of Apricot-Pepper Jelly sitting on that shelf that taste like a spoonful of cider vinegar- yuck! That was the recipe, and for once no fault of my own. (I have at least found that it makes a decent dip for breaded chicken or a tasty marinade when watered down with some canola oil), so not a total loss.

So I guess what I am asking to all you seasoned canners out there, when does this get easier? When will I stop making so many mistakes? When will I be able to throw out all of those jars of salty Zucchini Pickles and Apricot-Pepper Jelly that will never get eaten? (I just can not bear to do it right now, too much time, sweat, and money tied up in those jars!!)


Beegirl said...

Awww... We all have our failures. For some reason my green beans wouldn't seal in the pressure canner in the wide mouth jars I purchased. Had 8 jars in the refer and was so "green-beaned-out" , I just threw them away a month later. I am new to canning too. Each year it gets a little easier. Small steps. Your pantry looks great! Sorry to hear about your pickles and jelly. I am not brave, like you. I purchased a pre-made mix (you add sugar and vinegar) for my pickles.

Michelle said...

Wonderful!! I love the labels...did you make them?

Ruralrose said...

I quit canning after the third year. I never seemed to get ahead with the work needed and the losses that just "naturally" occur. Canning uses a lot of energy to cook and sterilize. It really reduces the nutrient value of what you are trying to save.

I freeze everything. Lord help us if the power goes out, but a generator is the next item on the self-sufficiency list. I pickle cukes and hot peppers because they are a no brainer and well worth the effort. Vegetables like beans I saute in butter before freezing. Tomatoes, bananas and ginger can be frozen whole. To use the tomatoes thaw them in a strainer, just lovely. I make up salsa with cilantro, onions, lime, hot peppers and tomatoes and freeze it in small bags too (i strain it before freezing). The ginger gets grated as needed. I freeze berries whole and use them for desserts or smoothies through the winter. If I do want some jam I make a small batch in the winter, when the house needs to be heated, and we enjoy it until its gone.

Don't give up, it all works as education for next year. You are way ahead of the learning curve even if you don't realize it yet.
Peace for all.

Erin said...

I don't even think about canning/making tomato sauce until I have at least 25-30 large tomatoes. I learned that last year which was my first year canning! Like RuralRose, I freeze almost everything, including tomato sauce, for the simple fact that I don't have enough time to devote to canning most of the time. I do it, kind of to "preserve the tradition", but it is very time consuming. As for the pickles, I have never soaked in a brine solution first. It seems unnecessary and time consuming as well. I use the recipe on Pick Your Own. org, but tweak it as I use my own fresh dill and garlic, put a grape leaf in the bottom of every jar for crispness, and this year I added one jalapeno to the middle of each jar for extra spicy dills. Don't ask me about sliced or bread & butter, since I don't like those and don't make them, lol! Don't worry, you will get the hang of it, and just realize that it's never a walk in the park, even for those of us with a few years experience!

Kelly said...

Thanks for all the pep-talking. We did just purchased a very large freezer so I can freeze more now.

Who knew you could freeze a whole tomato? I guess there really are no barriers to freezing food.

The lables are from an internet store- kitchenkrafts I believe. They also sell a nice freezer label that stays adhered for all those containers.

Kelly said...

I wanted to add that the one thing I will be doubling or tripling the next time I can are the Sweet Onion Preserves I made a while back. I am down to one lonely jar (far left) and I can think of 101 uses for this stuff- if anyone is ever at a loss for what to do with those big sweet onions, this is it! (Pizza, hot dogs, sauteed greens, canapes etc....)

Annie's Granny said...

Kelly, it looks to me like you're doing just fine. I seldom get the same amount of jars that a recipe says I'll get. When I follow a jam recipe perfectly, and end up with a pint or two more than it stated, I wonder why. How much volume can one lose with one minute of boiling, or how much can one gain by packing crushed fruit tightly in the cup? Can one pack crushed fruit loosely? Doesn't make much sense, does it?

I get a sense of satisfaction looking at those rows of jars on the shelf that I don't get by looking at bags of food that get lost in my freezer. Just sayin'.

Ms B. Thrift said...

I am very new to this, made our 1st batch of blackberry jam yesterday with some success, but I am hoping to really start making pickles and preserving more rather than just freezing (my poor freezer can't hold much more rofl!)

gardengrl said...

Just keep trying. Look at it this way...if you never try, you can never fail, and you will not learn, and will miss out on some very good things.
Empty the jars that have the not so good stuff in them when you have need for the empty jars.
Canning does get easier with practice and experience. I enjoy it, it tends to be relaxing for me.Although, in my forties now, I did not like to do it when I was a young girl.
Try this website for some recipes. By "some" recipes, I mean this is the most comprehensive I have ever found.
Good Luck in the future with the canning.