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By Erin Heard
From a young age, my parents taught us how to tend a garden from seed to harvest, followed by the processing of all those vegetables and fruits to keep them through the winters. And at times, it seemed like a tedious and boring chore, but it gave me some life skills I can only hope to pass down to my children.
Even now with a family of my own, spring means planning our gardens and planting, and fall means harvest and canning and freezing. Our three girls have helped plant our gardens from the time they were old enough to be digging in the dirt, even if it meant that we have far too many carrots or squash planted then we know what to do with!
Last week, I passed on the family traditions by spending an afternoon canning some of our extra produce with them. It was an interesting adventure, outside of our normal baking mode, and we all had a day of making memories!
Before you jump in to canning or preserving, check your stove manual and find a preserves and canning book from the fifties if possible. On the stove note, ceramic stovetops require a flat bottom stainless steel pot for canning, as the long and high heats can cause your stovetop to crack if there is uneven heat distribution. This was my first year canning on a ceramic stovetop, so again, I have to thank my mom for having all the canning pots I needed to get the job done! As for a recipe book, really any good tested recipes will work (online I really like www.pickyourown.org). Company’s Coming also has a good starter book. The recipe books from the fifties through seventies have nothing but real ingredients, so it won’t call for a prepackaged pickling mix, or pectin, etc. (Harrowsmith was a good book).
Some basic rules for canning include making sure that everything (jars, lids, sealers) are all hot and sterilized. The dishwasher can help with sanitizing jars, but I prefer a simple boiling water bath for quick and easy. Also, anything with meat or vegetables that will not be pickled will require you to have a pressure canner, as they require higher heats and pressure to keep from spoiling. I recommend visiting the library and borrowing a few books on canning to figure out what you’ll get the most use out of before you buy anything.
Here are a couple of good basic recipes to start with (the second recipe for blueberry jam will be in Part Two of this series)!
You will need:
You will need to start by washing the cucumbers well in cold water, and remove the ends. Optionally, you can slice them in half or quarters or leave them whole.
Next, you will need to prepare all of your jars and lids. Everything must be hot and sterilized to prevent anything spoiling! Boiling water bath for the jars, and a hot water bath for the lids.
I don’t have a jar holder that’s small enough for my pots, so I improvised with Mason jar lids at the bottom of my pot to lift the jars off the bottom.
While those are sterilizing, make your vinegar mix. Mix 2.5L of pickling vinegar with 1 liter of water, 1/3 cup of pickling salt and just shy of ¼ cup of sugar. I also add a dash of mustard and celery seed as well as some red pepper flakes. Bring just to a boil and remove from heat.
Once your jars are sterilized, remove them and place on a towel on the counter. I use my kitchen table; however, I recommend a wooden chopping block or similar heat block, because the heat of the jars can create visible rings in your table. Add a few heads of dill and two‐three cloves of garlic in the bottom of every jar.
Next, stack in your cucumbers. My helper added some extra dill on top!
Now it’s time to pour in your brine, using your funnel to help prevent spills. Fill to within ½ inch of the top of the jar.
Gently, with a clean damp cloth, wipe the top of the jars to remove any spilt vinegar or residue. Place the sterilized metal lid on jars and screw metal bands on securely. Now it’s time for a boiling water bath to keep from spoiling. The shorter your boiling time is, the crisper they will be. Recommended time is 10 minutes.
When they are finished, remove the jars and place on a towel on the counter to cool. As each one cools down, you will hear the lovely pinging sound that means it has sealed! Allow to sit for at least one week, but ideally 4‐6 weeks before eating
Erin Heard is a mother to three adventurous girls, and the owner of Cosy Baby Happy Mommy Inc. You can find her award winning baby carriers online at www.cosybabyhappymommy.com, as well as on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cosybabyhappymommy.