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Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Canning Post

It's National Canning weekend!

Now for those who have yet to bitten by the urban homesteading bug, it's a tradition that would have been lost were it not for those brave progressive foodies such as we...we Canners.

My collective knowledge of canning for the last ten years was limited to the directions on a package of pectin. But with my super sidekick Kristi guiding me, I was ready resume this hallowed homesteading tradition.

There is something, some type of homesteading magic that comes with cooking with someone else in the kitchen. Lessons are relayed, inside jokes are created and something with an unholy amount of natural flavor and tart sweetness is harnessed by a precise scientific method.

As dramatic as that might sound, what it boils down to is a great day of canning with Kristi at her house. Another defining moment of glorious and slightly intimidating commitment into self-sustainability

tip from K. eliminate foam with a pat of butter

Science is involved, lots of hot boiling water, special canning tools.
This was Big-Girl-Britches homesteading.
Bubbling and Boiling

Mostly for the sake of my lesson, it involved me watching Kristi deftly weave through her kitchen while I watched and listened intently, taking mental notes on her tips.

My favorite new canning tradition, I learned from Kristi, is the tasting jar. A conglomeration of sweet bits and pieces left over from each individual batch. This wonderful new thing is my favorite.

tasting jar
While on a break I stopped in on Kristi's flock of beautiful birds.
If I haven't mentioned it before, she has a beautiful flock that contains some gorgeous banty chickens as well as some rare blue and lavender orpingtons. It was very tempting to allow myself to get sidetracked sitting in the shade of her big coop house, watching her birds scurry around the scratch.


Breaks are required. Why? Canning is not easy. (Ok, we're not talking neurosurgery, but stay with me.)

Batch times depend on how well you time and finish each process.

Stations: Clean stations are important. An area for prep, an area for ladling and capping, and an area for cooling the jars.

In order to run smoothly and safely it's important to keep these areas clean between use to prevent cross contamination. Also child power comes in handy when it's mashing time.

Equally as important is the quality of the fruit. Regardless of how organic it is, if your beginning fruit is not ripe and tasty, then the quality of your jam will logically be lesser. That's something else I learned from the efficient Miss Kristi.

The outcome was two gorgeous flats of Strawberry-Ginger and Ginger-Peach jam. Now we had a chance for one of my favorite parts: trading jams. With names like Tripleberry, Blueberry- Lime, and Apricot, I came home with some winners. This resulted in a major rush of Farm-Wife Euphoria. (For a working definition of farm-wife dopamine events, see post on much less successful wheat grinding).

I relish spending time with others who are like-minded in their general belief that food is one of the most precious things we can share. Sealing tastes of nature into jammy heaven contained in pretty glass jars.

Armed with all my new found knowledge I was going to get my jam on today with the remaining mangoes, strawberries and limes from the canning session with Kristi yesterday.

I channeled my inner Eleanor Roosevelt (no idea if she actually canned), grabbed my new fabulous handmade chicken apron (made by Kristi's super talented mother/seamstress) and the Ball Canning book. Shameless Plug- (yes, readers, these are for sale).

I used my awesome new canning powers and processed two small batches of the remaining fruit to create a life-changing jam. Strawberry-Mango.

During each process and step today it was nice to reminisce about yesterday with Kristi. I remembered, of course, to make a new tasting jar.

Strawberry Mango nirvana

It was worth all the chopping, measuring, stirring, bubbly and boiling madness. I couldn't be prouder of my jams. I even love the small act of putting them up into my cupboard for the season, knowing that in one day, I've provided a staple of my family's diet. Really good jam.  These are my moments of 'Zhen'.

The leftovers don't go to waste. I fed them to the girls in the yard who happily gobbled them all up in a manner of minutes. 
Carmen discovering mango
Give away a jar to a friend. Allow yourself a moment to revel in the glass-walled beauties housing preserves, veggies or even pickled eggs. This carefully prepared food is meant to be shared with your loved ones. Even more special was the time I spent with both my friend Kristi and then later, when I passed the lesson from Kristi to my darling husband as we finished canning the strawberries. I spied the glint in his eye. The homesteading bug has claimed another willing and eager participant.

**(Note from Husband: Dear Readers, the "glint" she speaks of as evidence of my conversion to the wonders of canning, though wonderful, was more about observing how sexy she looked in her chicken-decorated apron. Guess I'm a sucker for my Farm-Wife. Thank you, the Husband.)**

This blog is dedicated to all of you out there in homesteading nation who do it because they simply love really good jam and are willing to dedicate time to sharing it with their loved ones through the magic of preserving.

Peace, Good Fruit and Happy Canning!

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