A couple weeks ago I watched FBBF’s* parents make and can a crapton of pear jam. While I’m not the hugest jam fan, the process was intriguing. It is probably my Mennonite blood or desire to spend as little money as possible (ok, that’s the Mennonite blood talking, too), but I’ve always wanted to can stuff. I want to be that girl who shows up to a party and people are like, where’d you get this salsa, and I’d be like, no big deal I JUST MADE IT MYSELF BECAUSE I AM A CULINARY GODDESS.
So instead of you know, maybe helping a seasoned canner with the process and then easing in to it myself, I decided I’d just do it. All of it. By myself. Because that’s how I take on kitchen challenges – all or nothing, stupidly diving in with no regard for my own sanity (sometimes safety) or practicality. It’s where my best recipes and my best disaster stories come from. I figure both outcomes are great, right?
I went to Walmart. I bought some jars. I went to a farm. I bought some peaches. I went on Pinterest and read several tutorials. I pulled out my Mennonite cookbooks and read the canning sections. I was ready to take on the world! Or at least these peaches!
Starting my first foray into canning by tweeting about it, just like the pioneers did.
— Amanda Bast (@AmandaMBast) September 14, 2015
On Monday morning, I set out to complete the task. Might take a couple hours, tops, right? Hahahahahhaha.
One hundred times no.
It took me hours. HOURS. And all I got were six jars. But more on that later. Lesson #1: It will take longer than you could ever imagine.
Peeling peaches takes a long time, even if you do the boil/shock in ice water thing. It still takes forever. You have to move fast so they don’t get brown and mushy. I didn’t move very fast. When I moved on to cutting all those peaches, I ended up shaving off a some mush. Said mush was then all over my hands and thus my kitchen. Also, peeled peaches are slippery suckers. Be careful. Lesson #2: Make someone else peel peaches for you.
Next came the packing. While I was peeling and slicing peaches, I had clean jars turned upside down in a pot with a little bit of boiling water in order to sanitize them. Use tongs, friends. Those things are hot. Then I put the peaches, cut side down, in the sterilized jars. I sterilized a bunch of jars, but only needed 5 of them for all my peaches. I went in to this stupidly thinking I’d need a dozen jars. No. You can pack a lot of peaches in one jar. Lesson #3: Don’t overestimate the peaches.
Then came the fun** part. Processing. All my research on the internet told me that I needed a canner. A canner is a pot with a basket inside. Seriously. That’s it. You just stick the jars in, cover them with water and then boil them for awhile. That’s the only thing that happens, and the internet claims you need a whole big awkward pot to do this. Wrong. So wrong. I used a giant soup pot. Lesson #4: You don’t need fancy equipment. I put a dishcloth in the bottom of the pot so the jars didn’t rattle around. I put the lid on. The water started to boil. I set my timer. And then.
I discovered that the lid of the stock pot wasn’t tight, so the steam and bubbling water kept escaping. And spraying. And steam shot everywhere. I’m fortunate that my burns were very very minor. Because that spewing water didn’t feel nice. But I was already committed to the process. I just had to go with it. I flipped the pot lid over, so the top was just a flat surface. I put another pot on top of it. I put a big glass measuring cup full of water in that pot, with hopes of it weighing down the lid long enough to stop the spewing. It worked for about 5 minutes. Then the spewing started again. I ended up holding the lid down and dodging any rogue splashes of boiling water. I called my mother in the midst of this process. It was dangerous. All very dangerous. At some point, the dishcloth came out from under the jars and the rattling began. So then it was dangerous and very loud. Lesson #5: You might need some fancy equipment.
At the same time, I decided I’d make some applesauce with some apples I had in my fridge along with some leftover peaches and a handful of raspberries (for colour). So that was bubbling and scalding me, too. DANGER. So much danger. I wasn’t sure it was worth the hassle. But.
Once everything was done processing and began to cool and I nursed my nearly fatal wounds and wiped the sweat that was dripping off my body, I heard them. Subtle. Quiet. But I definitely heard them.
The lids popped. If you’re familiar with the canning process, the pop means everything. Your jars are sealed. You’ve won the battle. You did it, you Culinary Goddess, you. You have canned some friggin’ peaches. Lesson #6: Dat pop, tho.
Now, who wants to help me can some salsa?
*Farm Boy Boyfriend
**HAHAHA JK JK