Wednesday, July 27, 2011

face the fear

Two Christmases ago I got the gift I wanted the most. A pressure canner. I was on the brink of a new gardening season, and if I remember correctly, my garden journal already had my garden plan drawn out for the coming spring. That next year's harvest was turned into stewed tomatoes, salsa, canned whole tomatoes, etc. But I was new to pressure canning, so I conservatively stuck to hot-water bath canning as a means to process my acidic veggies. This year however, I decided to face my fears of pressure canning. The process tormented me from the start, but I was increasingly tormented once I received a paper bag full of freshly picked green beans from my neighbor. I knew I had to make good use of this free harvest. And I also knew that meant I had to pull out the canner and just do it.

I have to interject here and tell you that it takes a lot of humility on my part to proceed with this blog post. Most people who know me as the pseudo-farm girl and pioneer spirited woman may think I'm an experienced canner. Not quite. Please don't judge me :)

Thankfully, my husband, Jason, had the day off the day I decided to dust off the canner and set to work. I got up early and washed and trimmed all the beans so they were ready to go. I chilled them in cold water so they wouldn't get rubbery and gross before I had a chance to can them. I perused the canner manual - trying desperately to understand the instructions. The fear of botulism and an exploding, over pressurized canner, kept disrupting my train of thought. Finally, I went to Jason and told him I needed his help. A slight grin and he agreed. See, over time I've learned that I'm a visual learner. Instruction booklets overwhelm me. I need to watch someone - have them show me through the process. So that's where Jason came in. He's a detail oriented person and we made a great team. He would read the manual, and show me what needed to be done. With each completed step, my pioneer spirit was being filled to a new level. I was doing it. I was facing the fear of pressure canning, and it wasn't so scary after all!

We compost - so I saved all my trimmings to make great soil for next year's garden!

This book was a recommendation from a friend. And every gardeners dream! A must have for anyone who wants to preserve the harvest. Also good "Preserving Summer's Bounty" - LOV-it!

It wasn't all without it's share of problems. Once we got the beans jarred and in the canner, we realized we completely forgot to get the bubbles out, so we reopened the canner in those early stages and checked the jars. No bubbles. Back into the canner they went and we turned the heat up. We knew we'd have heat regulation issues working on a glass cook top, but we worked our way through that. They canned at a slightly higher pressure rate than what the booklet said, but no explosions... to rocketing canner through the ceiling. When the timer was up, I let the canner cool down and carefully removed the jars from the contraption and onto an awaiting towel. As I went to put the third jar to rest, I heard it. The first of many "plink" 's as the jars sealed themselves shut, just as they were supposed to do. Seven jars. Seven "plink" 's. Not one casualty.

I did it. Well, with a little help. But in the future - having one canning experience under my belt - I'll be able to fearlessly pull out the canner and proceed with joy and not fear.

Our hard well water leaves the jars "milky" looking. Boo.

Thank you to my new gardening neighbor and friend for your generous green bean donation. And thank you to my sweet husband, for taking time out of your day off to help your freaked-out wife work through her fears.


Kristen said...

Good for you!

cafejojo said...

I posted this to my FB wall... great job Shelly. As I said on my post, "Grandma would be proud of you!" I love reading your blogs by the way!

Anonymous said...

If you put 2 Tablespoons of vinegar in pressure cooker before processing the jars do not get that milky look on the outside. Glad it went well-- I have a healthy respect for the pressure cooker.- jen