Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Few Canning Tips

It's been forever since I've posted for Kitchen Tip Tuesday, but this week I came up with TWO tips to share! (You'll have to come back next week for the second one.)

Though my garden seems to be calmed down a bit this year versus last year (or maybe I planted different stuff? Dunno...), I have been doing a fair amount of preserving. There are a few things that I've figured out from last year, my first year of canning, to this year.

1) Use rubber dishwashing gloves to protect your hands from scalding steam, blurping jam, hot jars, and anything else that can and will burn you. I figured this out the hard way when I was stirring strawberry preserves and it blurped up on my hand - and of course I had both sinks full of hot water warming my jars - a blast of cold water would have felt so much better!

2) Use plates instead of dishtowels to line your countertop. Last year, I used dish towels, and they ended up soaked from wet hot jars, and they soaked all the other stuff that cluttered my countertop (I get messy when I can, and cook, and bake...). By using plates, I keep the water contained, and they just go in the dishwasher when I'm done, rather than dishtowels that need to be washed and may end up stained. Plus, the good stuff that dripped off my funnel could be scraped into a jar and not lost.

3) I have also experimented some with using a propane cooker outdoors for canning. It gets the heat out of the kitchen, and since the pot is deeper, I stack jars on top of each other. (I'm not sure if that's a legitimate practice, but Laura does it, so I do, too.) I can't take credit for the idea of using the cooker outside, my friend Kim posted about it a while back. [And I can't remember if her blog is private now or not, so my apologies if you are not able to view it.] My canner rack doesn't fit in the pot, so I line it with a clean dish towel or a couple of dish cloths first. It is a bit more dificult to keep an eye on, but keeping that heat and humidity out of the house is quite worth it.

My tips from last year to help keep the heat out of the kitchen were:
* setting a fan in the doorway to blow cool air in (while Goose was in her room for quiet time) OR blowing the warm air out of the kitchen.
* dumping my hot water as soon as I was done with it (I would also recommend taking it outside to cool and then using it on your garden or reusing it the next time you can).
* taking my jars from the water bath into the bathroom to cool - I lined the tub with a towel and set them in there. I also put the pot in there until it cooled down.

Kim's post linked above also describes her experience with reusable canning lids, which I'm quite seriously thinking about giving a try next year. Especially since I always seem to run out of lids! Maybe if I took a count at the beginning of the year and planned ahead, I could avoid that... but I'm not sure I see that happening. :>)

So far, I have canned blueberry syrup, strawberry preserves, peach jam (from the Blue Ball book), some strawberry peach "jam" (it was kind of an accident), salsa (recipe at Kim's post above - make sure to wear gloves while cutting peppers!), and tomato sauce. I prefer to do enormous batches of tomato sauce, so I freeze the tomatoes until I have a lot. For smaller batches, I cook them down in the crock pot overnight with the lid off plus however long it takes to get down to the consistency I want; for larger batches, I cook them down in the biggest pot I have. This year, I have borrowed my dad's food strainer. You dump the sauce (or whatever) in the hopper, and turn the crank. The good stuff comes out one spout, the bad stuff another. I often send the "bad stuff' (seeds, skin, etc.) through one more time to get all the good stuff out that I can. And yes, this year I remembered to add lemon juice to my tomato sauce. I still need to make applesauce (no apples from my dad this year, sniff, so I bought some) and I want to re-do my spicy tomato juice from last year with the food strainer so poor hubs doesn't have to chew it as he drinks it.

What are you preserving? Any tips for me?

Head over to Tammy's Recipes for more Kitchen Tips.


Angela said...

Ahh, canning . . . this post makes me a bit sad that I didn't do ANY canning this year. This is the first year since I started canning 4 years ago that I haven't.

Heather said...

You are reading my mind on posting about canning! I just remember taking lots of pictures and posting about canning last year and this year I've been so busy trying to can while take care of the baby and toddler that I haven't taken any pictures or posted about it...such is life, huh?

Love your tips. I also take my pot outside immediately after take the jars out so it cools off somewhere other than the house! I am not doing any jam/syrups this year since we still have lots from all the batches I made last year. I've been doing diced tomatoes, carrots, dilly beans, pickles, zucchini relish (even traded some for grass fed beef!),lots of applesauce, pears and pear sauce, a little salsa, chicken stock (usually freeze, but our 1/4 of beef is coming in less than a month and need the freezer space), and some of Laura's tomato soup for quick lunches.

I got a pressure canner for Christmas last year and I LOVE IT! Love going to the basement to stare at all the filled jars. I keep buying jars, but seems like I always need more...wonderful problem to have. :)


Lenetta @ Nettacow said...

Angela, you have the best excuse for not canning - a newborn will do that to you! I'm not sure how you're managing, Heather... I'm amazed! I've been thinking about pressure canners, but I think either my mom or MIL (or both?) has one that I ought to be able to get my hands on.

Kim said...

Hey girly! My blog is public, so the link will work just fine. I'm one of those who've not canned as much this year for some reason. Maybe I'll do applesauce when it gets cooler. We've had such a hot summer! It's hard to get motivated. Plus, my mind has been elsewhere as you already know. ;)