A week and a half ago (or so), I went to a canning/pickling workshop with my friend Charlotte. The workshop was at the local community house, and there were about a dozen aspiring canners there; in about three hours' time, we made and canned (under the supervision of the canning workshop leader) Dilly Beans, Pear Chutney, and Pickled Daikon and Golden Beets. After going to the workshop, I couldn't stop thinking about canning--it was so easy! I suddenly had this new technology of preserving food at my fingertips! And so, I started planning a canning day for myself.
As with any food event, there was the question of what to make; I browsed and contemplated many recipes and finally decided on BBQ Sauce, Tangelo Marmalade, and Pickled Peppers.
Two of those, I knew, would be more involved recipes, and the peppers would be something easier--I had gotten a handful of banana peppers over the weekend, and our own little cinder-block garden had produced a few poblanos and jalapenos.
I planned the day along with my friend Megan, as she had an interest in canning things and is in possession of a canning pot; it also turned out that Megan and I make an incredible canning team--we work well together, and she's not afraid of picking up hot jars with her bare hands. (There she is, pouring sugar into the marmalade pot!)
We worked tirelessly for hours. One of the two large burners on our stove quit working soon after we moved into the house, and this was what slowed us down quite a bit, as canning involves several things going at once: a pan to sterilize the jars, whatever is being canned, and the big canning pot to process the jars once they're filled. Here is a picture of half-way through the day: the BBQ sauce was already blended up (I used fresh tomatoes to make it) and in a bowl, ready to be ladled out into jars; the tangelos ready to be cooked down for the marmalade; the peppers chopped up and waiting in a bowl... Including cooking time (and time to go out and get more jar lids, as we filled up more jars than we expected), we were hard at work for about six hours. And of course, as we were hearing the little "ping" of processed jars sealing themselves, all that work was worth it. I was especially pleased with the way the BBBQ sauce came out--we have enough to give to friends and family, and some
to use ourselves.
However, the marmalade never "set up" as promised by the recipe, which never mentions pectin... The taste was wonderful, but I was really hoping for marmalade, rather than tangelo drink mixer--we'll have to try it again, with pectin this time. I'm also looking forward to canning tomatillo salsa. And rosemary jelly. If you haven't tried canning, it's rather easy if you have the necessary tools. Also, it would help if you are making only one thing to can (especially if it's your first time). The sense of accomplishment in seeing the finished product is pretty great--and renewed each time I see the jars I purposefully left sitting out on the kitchen table.