Copyright © June Cleaver in yoga pants
Design by Dzignine
Saturday, August 21, 2010

Anti-recipe 5: Adventures in canning

My three little jars, cooling.
Notice tomato sauce all over counter?
I will get that tomorrow... 

Of course one must can to be a domestic goddess. Must.

Truth be told I don’t even care much for canned produce. Limp green beans? Pickled beets? I guess tomatoes for chili or a sauce mid-January is nice and all. But we all know you can buy cans of tomatoes for a buck.

So what is the point?

Well, here is a good run down

Gardening and home canning can lower your grocery bill. Burpee Seed Company ( estimates that for every $50 spent on seeds and fertilizer, a gardener can yield $1250 worth of produce. As it’s not feasible for a family to enjoy all of that fresh produce all at one time, home canning allows you to preserve that fresh, home grown flavor from your garden for use all year long, and saving on your grocery bill.

Home canning supports sustainable lifestyles. Canning locally-grown produce reduces the carbon footprint created by transporting vegetables around the world in off-seasons. A study by Carnegie Mellon found that 11% of the average American’s household food-related greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation of foods. You can reduce that by growing your own produce or purchasing it locally, and then fresh preserving the harvest and re-using Ball® Jars year after year.

Fresh preserving allows you to manage your family’s nutrition. Many canning enthusiasts enjoy the versatility and control they have with fresh preserving recipes. When you fresh preserve foods, you can avoid additives and preservatives found in many commercial products, and you may even opt to use organic ingredients.
Seeing as my garden produced crap this year (apparently gardens do in fact need sunshine, something our side of the yard lacks…) So, I guess my reasons would fall under numbers two and three. Although, I did go buy fresh local produce at the farmers market this week, totally cheap. (pounds and pounds of tomatoes for $6!! Green beans for $2!!)

First of all, to preserve food you don’t have to can. To do the beans I simply snapped off the ends, washed, blanched (placed in boiling water for a minute or two) then cooled, stuffed in freezer ziplock bags (small size for our little family) and stuffed in the freezer.

Tomatoes can be done the same way. In desperation in past years I have chopped up fresh tomatoes, skins and all, tossed in ziplock bags, and thrown in the freezer. It totally works.

But, there is something about canning on a hot August day, rows of steaming jars filled with rosy tomatoes setting up on the counter, that just brings out the giddy June Cleaver in me. (Although, did June can? I think that era was all about store bought canned goods, nah, I am gonna chose to believe she canned. In pearls of course.)

I bought my very first case of glass canning jars this week (my mom is wiping a tear of pride away right now) and went to town.

Of course my first step to canning tomato sauce was to step into the living room where dear culinary-inclined husband was playing with the children.

“Um, honey? If you were to make tomato sauce to can, how would you do it?”

Ok, I did know the steps I just needed some reassurance.

First wash tomatoes.

Then, using slotted spoon, place in boiling water for a few minutes, until the skin starts to wrinkle and fall off.

Remove from water with slotted spoon.

Run cold water over tomatoes.

Peel off skin.

Now, two choices here, you can chop up tomatoes here and be low key about it (skip to canning section), or you can make sauce. I am doing sauce.

Pick out seeds. I chopped into slices and oozed out seeds/pulp to throw away keeping just the meat of the tomato. I am sure there is a more professional way to do this but, whatever, it worked.

Now, stew the tomatoes. For hours. Until the stink of tomato filling your house is enough to make you want to forget about canning and run out and buy Delmonte canned goods for the rest of your life. DON’T DO IT THOUGH!! Although you may, like me, choose to let the resulting sauce cool and finally put it in the fridge at midnight, to be dealt with tomorrow.

[Confession – it is now tomorrow. The sauce is still sitting in the fridge. I am drinking coffee and writing instead of canning while the kids watch Nick Jr. Just had to get that off my chest. A full confession would include the fact that I tried to make baked eggplant at the same time as tomato sauce last night. And the eggplant turned out terribly and I got into a pouty mood about it and told my husband to do the sauce. But, you don’t need to know all that.]

So, now to can.

[Confession – I typically do not can on my own. I can at my mom’s house where she has all the right tools and stuff and knows exactly what she is doing. Although she still looks everything up in her worn copy of the Ball Blue Canning Guide, which is so endearing of her. I also confess to being a partial participant in this yearly event. It is mainly a chance to sit and gab with my mom and sisters and maybe a neighbor or two and drink iced tea and send the kids outside to play. (“We are CANNING. GO FIND YOUR FATHER!”) My participation is usually minimal. Maybe I will wash or skin the tomatoes. The occasional dip of the ladle into the soupy tomatoes and dumping into a jar. Or, my favorite, the occasional eating of the juicy ripe peach. So, as I write this I am reading directions off of the Ball Jar canning website and other various places. I will include links to real canning guides at the bottom of the post. Don’t want to kill any readers out there.]

Wash jars and lids in hot soapy water. Or if you are lucky, load up in dishwasher and wash.

Keeping your canning supplies clean and sterile is KEY to safe canning. That part I paid attention to.

Next boil up some water in your big canning pot.

A word about canners. So, I don’t own a pressure canner. Luckily high acid things like tomatoes can be canned in just a big pot of water, as long as you have an inch of water covering your jars. A canner rack would be handy, like a to-go carrier from Starbucks, so you can just lower cans into boiling water. I really should get one. I just carefully lower into boiling water with tongs while wearing oven mitts. HA. What a ridiculous picture.

[OK. So I just ran upstairs to catch up to these instructions. Washed jars. Check. Went to put quart size jars in water to sterilize in pot and realized I only ever used the smaller size jars with this pot. Off to pack up the kids and husband and go buy a proper canning pot. Ooo. Maybe even one of the nifty canning holder things. Be back in a few!]

[Two hours later…why are Saturday errands so torturous?? I found a big ole pot at my favorite thrift store. YAY. Even got nifty canning tongs, though not a rack. Kids are napping! YIPPEE. Now to can.]

Place jars in hot water (not boiling) to sterilize and bring jars to same temperature as foods. Bring to simmering boil (as opposed to rolling boil? I guess.)

Boil rings in small saucepan for a few minutes. Use tongs to remove rings, place on clean towel to bring to room temperature (to handle without burning yourself). Throw lids in hot water until use, don’t boil. [Note: Never ever reuse canning lids. I did this once. Bad Sara.]

Pull hot jars out of pot.

Pour sauce into jars, leaving a ½ inch at the top or so.

[So, I go to pour my sauce into the jar (kids are of course awake from nap by now) and 1) its not very saucy and 2) it only fills up one can. So I look online and find this great website with a tomato sauce recipe, which includes chopping raw whole tomatoes (and zuchinni or squash if you have it lying around, which I do, and after the eggplant debacle I want all vegetables that need extra attention used up and out of my house, still bitter) and pureeing in blender then heating and reducing. I am totally doing this.

So as I go to do this, pouring tomatoes from the bowl to the blender, I end up dumping tomatoes on the floor and into the potted plant on the counter. I start laughing hysterically and yell out “Oh My Lord, I shouldn’t be allowed in the kitchen” to which my husband replies, “Do you need help honey?” “NOOOO!” Dammit I do not need help. I can DO THIS. Composing myself I puree zucchini and tomatoes and the resulting liquid is really gorgeous and smooth. Perfect. I CAN DO THIS. Now onto the stove to simmer down. I am gonna add salt. The recipe doesn’t say this but heck, I like salt. Just checked the recipe. Its gonna take two hours or more. This of course means my house will once again smell like tomatoes all evening and I will be canning around midnight. Perfect. But I will persevere.]

If you are doing chopped tomatoes [why didn’t I??] add two Tablespoons of Lemon Juice. [Tomatoes need more acid if using a water bath like me, apparently. Although I don’t get why sauce wouldn’t? Does anyone know? Insert comment after the fact: USDA canning guides say you are supposed to use lemon juice for sauce. I didn’t. The other website didn't say that. Shoot. My mom never did so, whatever. Oh, unless I was getting more iced tea during that part? Shoot.]

Wipe any spills off of jar and off of rim of jar for a good seal. Place lids and rings, screw tightly. ALMOST THERE!

[A note: One does not need to can jars and jars of tomatoes at a time. I plan on doing four jars of tomatoes. Keep it manageable, you know? My lovely sauce only fills up three jars. Boo. Will go to farmers market again this week for further torturing of self, kitchen, husband.]

Fill canner half full of water. [I am using the same water I used to sterilize my jars, why not right? I can’t see why not. It’s there. It’s hot. ] Bring to simmer. Place jars in canner. Top off with hot water. Bring to boil.

Boil for 45 minutes. [The Ball website says 85 minutes?? What?? Everywhere else says 45. Including my mom. Ummm. You pick.]

Carefully remove jars with gripper thingy. Place jars on towel, cover with cloth. [I don’t know why, my mom always does this. I think you don’t want them to cool too fast?]

So, it is now 10:51. Babies finally asleep (teething, fun). And from downstairs I hear that very satisfying sound of sealing jars. Pop.

All in all, the kitchen is trashed, I didn’t really eat today but, not too painful. Just over 24 hours. Maybe tomorrow I will try dill pickles?

Ah, just heard the third one. Pop. Just does a heart good, you know?

So, questions? Comments? (Hopefully my mom will be reading and can answer. HA.)


  1. very funny sarah! my favorite so far!

  2. hilarious. sounds about how my day of canning went. pickles are a bit easier and oh so delish.

  3. I get bit by the canning bug every year. The easiest/cheapest way to get rid of it is pickles. Seriously I live in Alberta with a ridiculously short growing season, in a big city where high demand means produce never actually gets inexpensive. A cost effective way to soothe my need to can is important. There is a super easy recipe at (yes this is the duggar family website) scroll down to the garlic pickles. I've made them 3 years in a row without screwing them up, so pretty much anyone should be able to pull it off. Anyways I enjoy your blog. It usually leaves me laughing hysterically. Thanks for writing.

  4. currently wiping tears of pride from my eyes.....and laughter! Happy pickle making, Sara!

  5. Sara Darlin' You are great at writing and I'll bet that tomato sauce will taste delicious. I used to can outside on the picnic table with our Coleman camp stove, because it was too darn hot in the kitchen when the tomatoes get ripe. Now I just pick whatever tomatoes are ripe and wash them off and pop them in the freezer wherever they fit. When they are frozen I put them in a freezer bag and use as needed to pop into a stew or soup or whatever. If you don't want peelings hold a frozen one under hot running tap water for a minute and slide the peel off. This is the lazy way to do things, but you can easily preserve them as they ripen one by one instead of having to wait till you get a batch to work with. Happy pickle making Sara! Love you!

  6. Oh my gosh Sara that was hysterical! You seriously crack me up! Trying not to wake hubby and kids with the giggling. :-)

    Add to the list of Why You Should Can is that the lining on store-bought metal cans contains BPA, which leaches into the food, especially acidic things like tomatoes. Yummy!

    Despite this knowledge, I still haven't ventured into the realm of canning. MAybe bc I've only heard horror stories of exploded canned goods from various family members. My sainted mother possesses many skills; none of them involve a kitchen. Therefore I've never witnessed canning firsthand. But after reading this, I feel like I was there with you! :-)

  7. i did my tomatoes in bags in the freezer, how very lazy of me. my dear husband helped me with the whole thing and it went very quick. my next thing to try is cucumber curry soup in freezer bags. ummm... i'l let you know how it goes.

  8. another way to keep your jars hot while you get your food ready is to put them all in a large crockpot, you can get jars (clean of course), lids and rings in at the same time. put in hot watter and turn on high... it is the same idea as the dishwasher just without the dishwasher... :)

  9. Okay...I confess that I have NEVER canned before. I know--what kind of domestic goddess AM I? Seriously... However, in my defense, I do the next best thing, which is to become purposeful friends with OTHERS who are canning goddesses (accomplished namely through offerings of chocolate and lattes). Hence--my pantry is always stocked, and my kitchen stays clean. Well...kinda.

  10. up date: my cucumber curry soup was a-freakn-mazing! I'm not boosting either, I have a witness who gladly ate a bowl full!

  11. mary beth - YUMMY. totally gonna try those. although i went to do it yesterday and discovered we were out of vinegar. my hubby insists you can do pickles without it but, that is weird to me. also i need dill seed. which is key to dill pickles :)
    mom - kisses. can i come can properly with you this week? lets talk.
    cari - sounds yummy. PLEASE SHARE.
    betty - freezing WHOLE TOMATOES? GENIUS! love it. thanks for the advice.
    stacy - i would need a much bigger crockpot. and countertops. and kitchen. i have also seen turning jars upside down in saucepan to boil rim...maybe if i dare more tomatoes this week..
    tracy - BPA. darn that is sneaky of them. added incentive to try a few days...need to recover...
    mary - seriously. i have seen your recipes. you are a proper real cook. you can handle canning! if you were closer.... :)

    i honest to goodness just scrubbed up the last of tomato sauce from the counter...i found more. lordhavemercy. totally doing more though!

  12. mom. i still wanna know. lemon or no lemon??

  13. Here you go Sara.

    Ok, so if the truth be told I really don't like pickles at all, so here is what I did with all the cucumbers I had. Cucumber curry soup! Ummm.... so good.

    -Saute onions and garlic in butter, set aside
    -Wash, peel, and seed cucumbers. Throw them into the blender with sauteed onions and garlic.
    -Blend with 1 can of chicken broth until creamy
    -Add cumin, curry, salt and pepper to taste. (caution: taste first before adding salt as the chicken broth may already have salt in it. Opps....)
    -Now scoop out into freezer bags and voila! wonderful soup in the freezer just waiting for a cold winter night to be eaten up!
    -When you want to eat the soup just take it out in the morning and let it thaw out in the fridge. Come home from work/school (or at the end of a busy day chasing kids) just add milk and maybe strips of cooked chicken. Serve with tortilla chips. Umm. Umm. Good.

  14. wow cari. looks good. maybe you can make it when you are around more in a few weeks... ;)

    so my mom says, yes sara, you should have used lemon. apparently tomatoes are less acidic than they used to be. so it is necessary to add around two TB of lemon juice to each jar. PLEASE DO THIS!!
    also, as to any confusion. DO NOT reuse old lids. I think i said this in my post but just to clarify....
    my jars DID seal. my mom says its ok to use the sauce if they sealed, it just wont last as long.
    and, please remember my caveat. i was trying my hand at canning. please go to official guy websites and read the real instructions to be safe...
    ok. damage control done.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...