Some folks will say that it doesn't make financial sense to can. The expense is greater than the yield, and you have to dedicate a significant amount of time to the process. Small batch canning can be affordable once you acquire all of the necessary supplies, if you're smart about how you source your produce, and you take care to follow the proper instructions. I started to read tutorials and a few chapters in books about canning but I didn't feel confident enough to start exploring the process on my own.
I feel grateful enough to know a few awesome preservers and decided a few months ago to just ask for help. I asked Nicole if she'd be interested in teaching a lesson, knowing that she was a brilliant person in general, and especially skilled when it came to food preparation. In addition to all of her hands-on experience, she recently received her Master Preserver certification through the University of Wisconsin extension service. We worked out the best times with our busy schedules and then I wrangled some friends together and hosted the canning party Sunday afternoon.
We boiled and peeled, sliced and stuffed the tomatoes into pint jars. We learned about the different acidity levels, what requires lemon juice, what doesn't, how salt is optional and how to choose the best produce for your canning projects. We stuffed 11 pint jars with farm fresh tomatoes and screwed the lids on "finger tight".
(That lovely apron I'm wearing was made by my other wonderful friend Nicole who
will have an Etsy shop set up soon - Fancy Bolts!)
Once the jars were ready for the hot water bath, we learned about how the water works, the different times for different recipes and produce, how to load them into the pot and other important details. Once they were loaded, we snacked on delicious treats like quick pickled kohlrabi and carrots, salsa verde, onion dip and rustic-not-chunky bean dip for the 40 minutes required to full seal the lids.
I was worried that I wouldn't understand the process, that my kitchen wasn't big enough, or my three small burner/one large burner stove was inadequate. Nevertheless, we fit seven people into the kitchen doing a million different things, along with a 33-quart pot and over 20 pints of produce...and we had a spectacular time doing it! Nicole was patient, informative, and kind. She managed to guide us through a very detailed process even though we were milling about at times like lost Sim characters. I think everyone who participated left the workshop feeling like they not only understood canning better but food in general.
Excited. Confident. Invigorated. Curious. These are all things I wasn't before I set out to coordinate this workshop. Nicole was an invaluable resource and I hope she continues to bless the DC Metro area with her infinite wisdom and sassy sense of humor. I am so excited to collect peaches, tomatoes, and all the other delicacies of the season and turn them into enduring jars of deliciousness. When Autumn hits, I'm going to be climbing trees at Stribling Orchard, whipping up pint after pint of apple butter for friends and loved ones. The sky is the limit, really.
Make sure you follow Nicole in her new blogging adventures at Gin and Pickles. She's also working on coordinating a bigger learning opportunity in the near future and I will make sure to keep you posted here at Oh Meaghan with all of the exciting details! Thank you, Nicole, for the incredible life lesson (and for the Maker's Mark cherries)!
Thanks to Christine, Katherine, Nicole, Julie, and Em for all their enthusiasm and help throughout the day, too!
Yes, you really can can!