Over the last couple of years I have found myself edging closer and closer to being completely self sufficient. Of the many things that I have changed about my lifestyle, canning wasn’t one of them.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve thought about it; I even attempted it a couple of times,but, it seemed like it was going to cost more than I was willing to spend to buy all of the supplies. Little did I know that most of the supplies are a one time purchase; an investment if you will.
Then there was the sheer volume of produce I would have to grow or purchase in order to really make the investment worthwhile. During those early days I was under the assumption that I would have to grow hundreds of pounds of food in my little garden in order for all that effort to be worth it.
Lastly, there was the time. Oh how I dreaded how much time it would take to can everything. Peeling apples, shucking corn, and so on just to prepare the food for cooking. And how long would it all take to cook and cool? In my head, I was looking at weeks of torturous work slaving away in my kitchen and dreading my electric bill.
So I put it off. I decided that it would be cheaper just to buy everything from the store already prepared for my diner table. Oh, how wrong I was!
My first attempt at canning was last year. Being the newb I was I ignored everybody’s words of wisdom and decided that I could use jars that I had saved from things I had bought at the store. At the time I thought a jar was a jar so why would I go out and buy a dozen new jars for $8 when I already had 10 perfectly good ones laying around. I know, sometimes my naivety surprises me too.
I went to the local farmers market and purchased 20 lbs of apples. Why so much? I really don’t know! I love apples and had plans for them. Thanksgiving was around the corner as was Christmas and I love homemade apple pie. So I was going to make a ton of apple pie filling, use a couple of jars for pies, and save the rest for the next year. At least, that was the plan.
So I cored, peeled, and sliced the apples, threw all of the ingredients into a 3 gallon pot and set to cooking it. After a couple of hours it had thickened up and viowala, it was ready to can.
I sanitized my jars and lids, poured it in, and sealed the lids;leaving it on the counter to cool.
You can stop rolling your eyes now and berating me, I now realize how stupid I was! If I had spent even 5 minutes online reading anything about canning I would have realized my error before I even started and would not have had to throw out 9 pints of apple pie filling!
Once the jars were cooled I put 2 in the fridge so I could use them the next day for my pies and the rest in the cupboard. The pies turned out great! Everybody loved them. It wasn’t until 2 weeks later when I got into that cupboard to grab something that I notice something was wrong.
The filling had separated. The apples had floated to the very bottom , the middle hosted a clear ooze, and the top held the thickened sugars; all of it had turned a slight grey shade. Oh how I wish I had taken pictures so I could share them with you.
I took no heed and left them be since I didn’t need them for a few more weeks. I had never canned anything before so I assumed it was normal. I didn’t check the seals before I shut the door or I would have noticed that the jars were not in fact sealed at all. The little nub on the top had not sucked in and the bacteria the filling hosted were thriving in the moist, sweet, and dark environment.
Skip ahead a few weeks to Christmas. I was happily readying my house for my family to visit, cleaning, and taking stock of what I needed to buy for our dinner when it suddenly hit me; I had 9 whole jars of apple pie filling to use which would save me from having to buy any.
I get back into the cupboard and grab 2 of the still separated and slightly grayish ooze that had become my delicious pie filling and frowned. Don’t worry, no one ate the awful concoction that was the filling; I’m not that stupid and I know potential botulism when I see it. But I did finally notice the broken seals and got smart enough to open a damn book so the next time I would do it right and not waste all that time and money!
Fast forward to today. Last week I went and bought a flat of BRAND NEW jars and seals. I have now read my fair share of canning books and have a pretty good idea of the right way to go about it. The most important thing I learned from my awful first experience was to make a small batch first.
So today I made a jar of applebutter. One jar (and a half) to make sure that I could do it. There is no telling if I will be able to do a large batch but I’m going to try. Who knows, maybe I will even start blogging about my canning adventures and help other people learn how to be a little bit more self reliant as well.
Until next time.