05 June 2009

Local Q&A: Canning et plus

Q: So my girl and I wanna figure out the best, cheapest setup to can some vegetables over the summer. Mostly tomatoes, if that makes a difference. We don't have too big a garden. 10 tomato plants, 4 pepper plants, some beets and onions. We're not preparing for a zombie apocalypse. Just wanna avoid tossing what we don't eat fresh. Also, how are you?

A: Canning is a lot of fun if you make a day or evening of it. Open a bottle of wine and crank some good tunes...it is time consuming, and has to be done all at once. There are two main methods to canning. One is the "water bath" method. This can be done in a large pot (sometimes I use my biggest soup pot.) This method can be used for jams, pickles and other food items with lots of preservatives (salt, sugar, vinegar) Basically you put the goods in the clean jars, submerge them in water and let them boil. Tomatoes are high in acid and are not usually prepared in those preservatives and therefore need to be prepared with the pressure cooker method. I bought a canning pressure cooker at OSH for 40 or 50 bucks. This method increases the temps. Pressure cookers can be a little nerve wrecking since they can explode at any minute. But todays pressure cookers are pretty safe, as long as you use them wisely. I wouldn't trust the one my grandma used to use. The other really important thing to know is that EVERYTHING must be sterilized. Jars, lids, and canning tools should be clean and sterilized. I use a couple of other pots of boiling water. I also use clean towels so I don't have to touch the jars. There is plenty of info online about cooking times for various items. It really depends on the recipe. I recommend "Preserving the Harvest" by Costenbader and "Pickles and Relishes" (if you are into that sort of thing) by Chesman for good recipes. Both books also have chapters on methods and cooking times. Good luck man. That is awesome that you are growing some food.

I'm not sure when the last time we spoke, but we moved into a new house in Highland Park. We're renting, but the landlord is a friend and let's us do whatever we want to the yard. We've removed most of the grass in the back yard and are working on turning it into a large garden. We also just got 3 chickens. Should be sweet once [they] start laying eggs. Their names are Edith (black) Mildred (brown) and Prudence (blonde). We wanted to name them good Depression Era names. Here are a few pics. (see above) You can see how fast they have grown in only three and a half weeks. Hope all is well with you.

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