Adventures in Canning.

I may not be a New Year’s resolution kind of lady, but I am all about setting goals. For the first time in ten years, my goals have nothing to do with academia or earning a degree. My goals are purely passions, interests, and desires I have. How self indulgent!

On the eve of 2014, I huddled over a notebook and poured out creative idea after idea. In the blink of an eye, the notebook was jam-packed full of things I want to learn and need to have a handle on prior to starting my farm.

With one homesteading goal crossed off my list {baking breads from scratch}, it was time to choose the next. And what better goal to conquer than one that makes you shake in your boots and requires safety goggles that give you fits of laughter?

That’s right, the time had come to conquer water bath canning. Don’t even mention pressure canning to me yet. That’s a mini-heart attack waiting for another day.

After receiving my handy-dandy safety goggles from my boyfriend, and repeatedly reviewing the steps out loud and in written form, I was ready. We chose canned apples in light, homemade syrup for the first adventure; after all, even if the canning went awry, who couldn’t eat a few cans’ worth of apple slices over the course of a day or two?

Apples Prepped for Canning / from TheSirensTale.com

The Good: Once again, I was reminded what an amazing team my beau and I make. Anytime two people work side-by-side with an unspoken rhythm and groove, it’s a beautiful thing.

My guy coached me through each canning step as I frantically ran about, yelling out random kitchen utensils as if I were a surgeon dealing with life-or-death crisis: “Where’s the tong-thing? Tongs! Tongs! I need tongs!”

He even sat patiently with me as I wrung my hands like an expectant mother, worried that I would over-or-under process the cans. What a guy.

Boiling Cans / from TheSirensTale.com

The Bad: Life should offer separate directions for anyone who has stayed in college too long. After ten years of collegiate life, I’ve become far too analytical. I almost botched the entire canning adventure because I was knee-deep in figuring out the real “look” of simmer versus boil.

Again getting caught up in details, I was stumped about when to drop the canning rack into the water with the filled cans. Will the cans cool down too much and smash? Do I only count the minutes once it’s at a full boil? Will my canned food kill off all my loved ones with a horrific bacteria?

You know, normal concerns.

Canned Apples / from TheSirensTale.com

The Lessons: In the end, all the cans sealed properly, but my apples rose to the top. I’m thankful this experience taught me the difference between raw packing and hot packing, and for delicious apples through the next few months.

Learning how to can also taught me to stop making infinite lists of mental questions, and start using common sense when it comes to homesteading. Homesteading isn’t found in books, analytic reports, or academic studies… it’s a practice of the soul and heart. It’s felt.

What homesteading blunders have you made?
What’s the scariest goal you’ve conquered lately?

51 responses to “Adventures in Canning.

  1. Wow! Good for you! I am so scared of canning.

  2. Congratulations… I hope you become as addicted to canning and home preserving as I am… the apples look great and hope they taste that way too!

    • Thank you so much! I love seeing all the things you’ve canned, and hope to see more on the blog 🙂 We canned the apples about a month ago, and we’ve eaten a can since. They were so fresh and delicious! (I was secretly shocked I didn’t mess it up, haha.)

  3. Good for you! I am far from a Homesteader, in fact a shameless urbanite but I just got an entry on canning on my Facebook page and I was intrigued. Yes I follow Martha Stewart. I am intrigued with pickling things and making jam. Your apples rising is just a matter aesthetics right? You sealed the cans properly so congratulations!

    • Pickling sounds really interesting.. I have some recipes tucked away I hope to try! And how can anyone ever go wrong with jam? Delicious.

      As soon as I saw the apples float to the top, I researched it and found that it’s purely aesthetic. Some of the apples at the top not covered by a little juice might not be as “crisp” as the others as the months go by, but that’s about it. Not too bad for a first try! Thanks for your kind words 🙂

  4. Yay! Caitlin, I am so excited that you have ventured into the wonderful world of canning! I totally understand that first time running around feeling. The first time I did it, I totally didn’t have myself prepped enough and couldn’t find the things I needed, when I needed.
    As for pressure cooker canning — yeah, I actually haven’t done it yet. Not to scare you, but my mom got second degree burns on her legs from a pressure cooker accident when we were kids. And so my mom, my sister and I all have a major fear of it. Despite the fact that it was totally my mom’s fault and not the pressure cookers, and in fact the latest models are very safe…
    Sharing with you some of the canning recipes I’ve done. (I also will be sharing my Cardamom Pear Butter recipe in the next couple weeks).
    http://greendoorhospitality.wordpress.com/pantry-preserving/
    Again…YAY! 🙂
    Jessica

    • Thank you so much! I am so excited about overcoming this fear. I was convinced everything would shatter (I usually have bad luck around glass in the kitchen haha.) I’m looking forward to canning more this Spring and Summer.. each time I do it, it’s less scary and feels more calm!

      That’s terrible to hear about your Mom’s accident with a pressure cooker! I’ve heard some horror stories about them, and always seem to hear mixed responses if they’re worth it. There are some foods I love that I know I’ll eventually have to pressure can because of their acidity level, but oh goodness.. I don’t look forward to that day!

      Thanks for sharing your canning recipes… I just bookmarked it and can’t wait to go through them all tomorrow morning with a cup of coffee 🙂 Looking forward to the Cardamom Pear Butter recipe.. that sounds amazing.

  5. You know I think there is a wave of people who just want to go back to simpler living. You’re doing it, so good for you!
    Diana xo

  6. You’ve done great with your first canning 🙂

    I started with a pressure canner, wanting to can vegetables and low acidity foods, and yes, it was scary! We got ourselves a one-ring gas burner and have the canner out the back where any explosions could limit the damage done, and plenty of places to run away. Never had a problem though!

    Good luck trying more canning! 🙂

    • Starting with a pressure canner? My oh my, do I have respect for you! That must have been a scary first go around. I like your idea of pressure canning out back where there’s less to be injured/damaged in case something goes bad. I’ll have to try that in the future!

  7. congrats on conquering the art of canning. Lol i know it is something i will never ever do. im too lazy for one and two, around here it’s considered to be something only old white ladies do in the more remote areas and are then sold at a ‘tuisnywerheid’, unless you count the fruit farms and they’ll have some of these home made thingies for sale.

  8. Brave brave girl! So glad you had the guy to hand you instruments! You know you’re right, you have to rely on your gut feelings in the kitchen sometimes, you can’t always blindly trust a recipe or method, there are too many variablesl~it you’ve mastered bread and canning, you’ve got it made!
    Jenna

  9. Good job! I love that you are trying all these wonderful things. My specialty and hubby’s favourite is pickled beets…we just ran out … A new batch will be forthcoming when the new beets hit the market stands, later in the summer. Jams are my favourite. Keep up the good work! 🙂

    Connie

  10. I attempted canning several years ago, carefully following the instructions. When push came to shove though, I didn’t have much confidence and couldn’t convince myself to feed my family from those jars, lest I give them food poisoning. I did master bread baking by just jumping in and practicing – constantly amazed when it turns out right. Good luck with all of your ambitions for 2014!

    • Michelle, I honestly think confidence is the hardest part of canning. I know this is what stumped me in the process (and others, from what I’ve heard so far!) I was very concerned about food poisoning as well, but after lots of research I found that most lids will swell and pop off if harmful bacteria is growing. (Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself to get over my fear, haha.)

      Thank you for your kindness!

  11. Last summer I almost took the plunge and canned. Every year I take a baby step towards it. It does scare me.

  12. We adore canning 🙂 I will have to try out apples!

  13. I used to can all the time when I was younger. Grew up doing it. This summer I want to try doing some strawberry preserves. I love strawberry jam and live in a huge berry growing area, so I should try it.

  14. Canning is definitely intimidating to me, though it seems like all of these concerns are only in the background for those who are old hands at it! I’ve helped family members can applesauce (best applesauce ever!) and pickles and peaches, but have never yet just tried it on my own.

    • Canning seems to be one of those things – the more you do it, the less scary it is. One of my mom’s friends has been canning for over 40 years and doesn’t fear anything anymore. Hopefully one day I’ll be a well-versed canner too!

      Applesauce is so, so good canned. I can’t wait to make some after this summer/fall harvest of apples! You should try it out too… I bet you’d like it!

  15. awww, this made me smile…laugh! maybe because i’ve been there 😉
    and the lesson of learning to feel…so good.

    • Michelle, it’s so good to hear others have been here! I felt frantic in the kitchen at first, but looking back it was so comical. Each time I can I feel a little more at ease 🙂 Much like most ventures in life: scary at first, then entirely beneficial!

  16. Good for you, girl! I love canning so much and wish I had more of an opportunity to do it!

  17. I bet these will taste delicious knowing how much effort went into them 🙂

  18. Haha, love this! As a teacher with a home economics major you would think I would know how to can, or have ever tried it before but I’ve honestly never been tempted. But looking at those apples . . . that would probably be really good! I think I might give it a try this year!

    • Yay for a fellow educator! I don’t think I knew before that you’re a teacher… kudos to you 🙂

      You should definitely try out canning. Although it’s intimidating, it’s also rewarding and I love knowing every ingredient that went into making the products.

  19. Haven’t tried canning yet. Your successful push outside that comfort zone is inspiring.

  20. Hahaha…the real look between simmer versus boil!! You made me laugh =) And I am happy that your man could be next to you the whole time…you will both enjoy your spoils…congrats on tackling this project =)

    • I’m glad you got a chuckle out of it… the whole experience was comical 🙂 Clearly I need to work on my ability to work under pressure. In the end, it was a lot of fun and each time I’ve done it since, the pressure is a little less! Thanks for stopping by + commenting!

  21. I really enjoyed the visual of canning “surgery”! Good for you making a list of goals for the year and getting a quick start! I understand all too well the over-analytical thing – but it seems that you learned a lot.

  22. I was terrified the first time I made and canned jam. I had watched a demo out at the lake and they were so relaxed and made it look so easy! It was anything but the first time around. I will say, I think next time I will trust my instinct with when the jam has thickened enough. I kept going and had jam splattered everywhere in the kitchen and on me! Way to go!

    • I had to giggle a bit while reading about your first experience… there is such an air of panic when anyone cans for the first time. It’s funny, something many of our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, etc. did for years, we suddenly view as frightening! I agree with you so much.. I think we all need to really “listen to our gut” when it comes to homesteading in any form. Thanks for the support 🙂

  23. Pingback: Learning to Grow Your Own. | The Siren's Tale

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