Better Be Worth It

So, home canning:  the activity has arguably lost its ubiquitousness in the new millennium.  The idea brings to mind root cellars, giant pots, wooden cratefuls of vegetables and an already bone-tired matron of a household taking a deep breath and tying her apron as she begins the forced march into canning season.  It’s so much work and it’s so hot already.  No wonder the old parable about the ant and the grasshopper;  if one didn’t do the canning, one’s family would not taste vegetable matter until spring, and that must’ve been the motivation for ploughing through all the sweaty work.

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But nowadays, is home canning even a thing?  I have fleetingly toyed with canning in the past, producing a few jars of jam now and then when we’ve bought too many strawberries or picked too many saskatoons.  The simpliest of jam recipes always sound appealing – boil fruit and sugar until it is of jam consistency – but the next steps involving sterilizing and submerging in boiling water for “processing” leech the simplicity from the recipe.  Plus, we don’t have jar-lifting tongs or a canning rack, let alone a canning-sized pot.

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However, with an unexpected surfeit of persian cukes and a variety of cute little peppers, we decided last week to enter into the arena of home canned vegetables.   Marc searched the internet for pickled pepper recipes and I went straight for the recently published family reunion cookbook, in which I knew I could find Judy’s recipe for “dills”.    The whole thing turned out to be an exercise in substitutions:  we couldn’t find pickling vinegar (which, for the record, has an acidity of 10% instead of the standard 5% of distilled white) and we also couldn’t find pickling salt, though someone somewhere on the internet suggested using kosher salt in its place.   Our jerry-rigged operation included a stock pot, one metal trivet with the rubber feet removed in order to stand in as a canning rack, a large and somewhat greasy monkey wrench as jar-lifter and a new set of pint-sized Mason jars.   There seemed to be alot of variance in processing time and methods for determining if the jars had truly sealed – listen for the pop, unscrew the ring and lift the jar by the lid to make sure it holds.   In the end, we compiled our own recipes from the parts of other recipes and instructions that seemed the easiest and/or made the most sense.   Lots of dill, lots of garlic, lots of salt.

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The conduct of this experiment was rather uneventful and now, one week later, we have two jars of pickled peppers and five jars of pickles sealed and marinating in the pantry.   The results remain to be tasted.   If we have succeeded and they actually taste good, then we will make a point of insisting our friends try them and admitting, with false modesty, that indeed we did make these ourselves.   If we fail, we’ll chuck the lot and all too easily buy replacements.

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