Published in 1979, the canning recipes in the Junior League of Tuscaloosa’s Winning Seasons are slightly more descriptive and helpful than those in my Junior League cookbooks from the 50s and 60s. However, for the most part, they still assume you know the basics. In case you don’t, or in case you missed my previous post, here are a few of them (and if you need additional help, I’m told that the Ball Blue Book of Preserving is the bible of canning).
- Wash your jars in warm, soapy water.
- Bring a giant canning pot of water to a boil. This will take forever, or to be more precise, about 45 minutes. Then, sterilize your jars by boiling for at least 10 minutes.
- Heat your lids and metal rings in hot, but not boiling water, and have ready.
- After loading your jars with fruit or vegetables (but especially fruit preserves), run the end of a wooden spoon through the food to break up any air bubbles, then wipe the rim of the jar with a damp, clean cloth.
- Center the lids on the mouths of the jars, and screw on the metal rings, just until you get a little bit of resistance. Do not screw rings on tight.
- Process in boiling water for 5-10 minutes with pot lid on.
- If processing worked, lids will be depressed and taut. If it didn’t, they’ll pop when you press you finger to the center.
If there is one thing I can say about my skills in the kitchen, it is that I am pretty good at timing things and as a result, am rarely frantic when I cook. However, during my first round of canning, I was a mess. Nothing boiled when I needed it to, some things boiled when they shouldn’t have, and for a good half hour, I was using my jar lifter upside down. I also scalded my thumb, and was sort of crazy and mean to Brady, saying things like, “Potts, I want your help. I don’t want your opinions.”
He was a good sport, mostly because I am unintentionally hilarious when I am crazy and mean.
Ironically, the first thing I canned came out the best. It’s a delicious pickle recipe – tart, crisp, and sweet, and evidently, one that can be pulled off by an absolute beginner.
Ruth’s Bread and Butter Pickles
4 quarts medium cucumbers (about 6 pounds sliced)
1 1/2 cups onions (12 to 15 small white ones, or about 1 pound sliced)
2 large garlic cloves
1/3 cup salt
1 to 2 quarts ice, crushed or cubed
4 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon tumeric
1 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
2 tablespoons mustard seed
3 cups clear, distilled vinegar
Wash cucumbers thoroughly, using a vegetable brush, and drain on rack. Slice unpeeled cucumbers into 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch slices.
Add onions, garlic and salt; cover with crushed ice or ice cubes, mix thoroughly, and allow to stand for 3 hours. Drain thoroughly and remove garlic. Combine sugar, spices, and vinegar; heat just to a boil. Add cucumber and onion slices and heat 5 minutes. Pack loosely into clean, hot, pint standard canning jars. Adjust lids. Process in boiling water bath canner (212 degrees F.) for 5 minutes. Yields 7 pints.
—Ruth G. Kirkpatrick
Following the success of my first canning attempt, I was feeling my oats. But it would not be all sunshine and pickles.
Garlic Dill Pickles
Pickling cucumbers (not more than 5 or 6 inches long)
1/2 gallon white vinegar
1/2 gallon water
1 cup uniodized salt
1 teaspoon alum
8 flowers of dill
8 cloves of garlic
8 pods of red pepper (optional)
Place cucumbers in clean container with very hot water. They should be hot through and through; add more hot water if necessary. Bring to a boil the vinegar, water, salt, and alum. In each of 8 quart jars, put a dill flower, a clove of garlic, and a pod of pepper. Fill jars with hot cucumbers and pour boiling liquid over them. Seal. Process in a water bath canner for 5 minutes (212 degrees). Makes 8 quarts.
—Mrs. David Hefelfinger (Virginia Mauney)
These pickles came out, um, not so good. They were mushy, which I could overlook, but they were also very, very salty. It was all I could do to finish half of one. I could say, halve the salt, and maybe it would have worked better, but honestly, I don’t know if even half a cup of salt would be too much in this case. I will have to keep experimenting, because I do love me a dill pickle.
However, the bread and butter pickles were so good, it will be hard to get me to make anything else.
And with that, the great canning experiment of 2009 comes to an end. At least for a little while. I may have to make some more stuff, if only because I have yet to find a place in the apartment to store my big canning pot and it’s still sitting on top of the stove.