Canning!

So in the midst of starting a quilting business & putting together the house, I decided to do some pickling. One of the nice things about the house we bought was that it had a raised garden bed ready to go in the backyard. Because I can become obsessed with things, I decided we had to have a garden this year. This brought 2 interesting challenges:
1. We bought the house the end of May. Already kind of late to be growing veggies.
2. The garden plot hadn’t had ANYTHING done it in at least 3 years.
But since I was on an obsession, I hoed & raked & got every single last darn weed outta there! It was painful & I probably should have been working on the house.
Then since the plot was ready for planting near the end of June, I purchased the already started plants from Lowe’s.
Then I discovered how perfect Nebraska is for growing. There’s a reason why this is the corn capital of the world. All you have to do is toss some seeds out there, water & before you know it, you have LOTS of vegetables.
We have lots of veggies. Mostly cucumbers right now. A LOT of cucumbers. I’ve already given away 3 to every neighbor near us that I’ve spoken to since we’ve moved here & I still have lots. So that’s when I decided to make pickles. Sounds like fun, right? I’ve canned before. Then J mentioned that maybe relish might be more practical. Very good point my dear husband- relish we will make. Thus started the relish making drama of last weekend.
Now the house is still a disaster, there are still tons of errands to run, a book to read for book club, quilts to finish for my quilting interview, & who knows what else I’ve already forgotten- but I was determined to make relish.
I first started researching recipes. I swore I had my mom’s Ball Book of Canning & Preserving. Went through the cookbook box, darn it, not there. Looked through my other cookbooks. Not happy with those explanations. They assume you know a lot of the steps. It’s been a LONG time since I’ve made relish (I think I was 10?) so I’m not assuming anything. Come to find out, that was a good thing as the National Center for Home Preserving or something like that came out with some new guidelines about healthy preserving- i.e. how NOT to give your friends & family botulism!
Ok, I think I have a recipe that will work. Oh, this is when J has the great idea of relish. Back to searching for another recipe. I’m not liking any of these recipes. Darn it! Ok, make a run out to Sur la Table, I remember them having the Ball Book of Canning & Preserving (this really is the end all of canning books, I NEED this cookbook!) Well, they have it, as a part of the $50 kit! Darn! I really don’t want to spend that for items I’m pretty sure Wal-Mart has. Ok, J & I decide to hit the Wal-Mart (note, I have a really great husband, he willingly listens to me agonize over things like relish recipes & willingly goes all over town for a stupid cookbook.) Wal-Mart has the supplies & jars! Yes! Finally something has worked out. But alas, no Ball Book of Canning & Preserving. J suggests running out to Books a Million, as that is the closest bookstore. Ok, off we go. They at least have the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. Ok, that will work.
Now some of you who do not can, or have never canned before might be wondering why I’m going nuts driving all over the city of Omaha for a stupid book. Well I need technique. I need times to let things boil so bacteria won’t grow. The Ball company is the best company for this. As far as I’m aware, they are the only company that actually specializes in canning. They’ve been doing it for over 100 years & they the ones that make the special jars & sealing lids so that everything comes out ok. They probably have a full time staff of scientists that actually research bacteria growth & botulism. (I have 2 friends who are probably qualified to work there & after hearing their basic work stories about bacteria, oh yes, I’m buying the guide from the best company.)
Ok, so I have my cookbook. I decide upon the ever creative “Cucumber Relish.” 8 cups cucumbers, not a problem, sadly, barely used half. Left out red peppers b/c that didn’t seem good in relish. So I made up by adding some more cucumbers. I peeled, seeded & chopped in my food processor (I LOVE that thing!). Then I set everything up to brine. And was told to wait 4 hours.
4 hours go by & I’ve got the quilt to finish, pesto to make w/ J (very yummy & thank goodness I was able to use 4 cups of basil- now at least 1 plant in the house is at a manageable level.) Ate dinner, worked on the quilt- ok, actual canning wasn’t going to work on Sunday afternoon.
Monday comes & there’s lots going on, so in the evening, I decide to finish. Wait- I can’t, my jars aren’t sterilized & I read that putting them in the dishwasher is better than boiling over the stove. Ok, start dishwasher & go swimming. 18 laps later & I’m pretty tired, I’m home & I pull out the cuke mixture from the fridge which has managed to make the whole fridge smell like salt. I start the rinsing process. Yes, I must rinse all the salt off. Meanwhile start sterilizing the lids. J also walks in at this exact time & starts dinner. I’m really hungry & I know he’s hungry, so he starts the hamburgers. I start pouring vinegar, spices & boiling & finally! it’s ready to actually can. Pull jars out of dishwasher, start canning. Remembered how difficult it is to can alone. No wonder my mom always made me help. I’m also remembering a long evening in college when a neighbor & I decided to make pear butter at 10pm (this is not recommended- makes for good stories, but not recommended.)
Pour the relish into 8- 1/2 pints (wait a second! The recipe said it should fill 12- 1/2 pints, oh whatever) & start the water bath procedure.
Finally around 8pm, they are all out on the counter, cooling completely.
Now all I have to do is taste test!

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