If I can can, so can you

By no means am I an expert at canning. In fact, I am the quintessential novice who second guesses herself every time I can, frantically searching online for “second opinions”, texting or calling the very few people I know that ‘can’, asking them if this or that is normal. I’m also slightly afraid of my pressure canner. After every canning session, I feel like an accomplished food preserver  – admiring all my jars of homegrown goodies that we will enjoy for several months to come. 
  I didn’t grow up watching my mother or grandmothers preserve food. I grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles. From what I knew, food came from the grocery store half a mile away. Some of my best memories are playing on the grocery carts with my little brother in that store. All of our vegetables came from that grocery store. There were 5 kids in our house, all of whom ate like adults. My mom could barely keep up (she lived in the kitchen) while my dad was always at work paying for the food on the table. We had a swimming pool instead of a garden because that, by far, was a lot more fun!

Fast forward to 2018…

We live on a small farm with our three young children and my husband’s passion, among many other things, is growing food. He has a natural ability and can grow almost anything he puts in the ground. I, on the other hand, tend to kill everything I try to grow. I can’t even keep a cactus alive. BUT…I can cook and I can bake! More times than not, I’ve been asked the details of our growing, like when, what we grow and how we grow.  I try to answer as best as I can, and then point to the guy with the big blue eyes and two green thumbs because it’s not me who’s growing anything. I just water what he tells me to water, then help harvest and prepare it. Needless to say, I’m learning all the time and do enjoy his talent and passion for growing.  One day, I will grow something and it will not die. So, our  current marital agreement is this: He grows it, hunts and kills it. I cook it, can it, butcher and process it. Voila! A match made in heaven. 
  Learning to can is a necessity if you are growing on anything larger than a small backyard garden. If you don’t, you’ll either be feeding a lot to your chickens, giving it away to friends/family, or composting it and letting it go to waste. For awhile, I thought I could get away with just freezing vegetables, but we ran out of freezer space….so we got a new freezer. When our old fridge died, our new freezer couldn’t accommodate everything. Then, when the hubby started bringing home buckets of tomatoes and cucumbers from our land (pre-farmsteading), I realized the canning gods were sending me messages that I needed to get busy and learn to can properly. Now that we actually live on our farm and grow A WHOLE LOT more food, I am over the moon happy that I conquered my fear of screwing up perfectly good food, and learned the not-so-common-anymore art of home canning. Did I mention homegrown canned vegetables and fruits taste a heck of a lot better than ANYTHING you can buy in the store?
Onto the reason for this blog post on canning!

  This month a friend blessed us with about 130 pounds of pears from her ‘little pear tree that could’. Immediately, I started dreaming of all the things I’d do with these pears. They are pears specifically for canning so they have tougher skin, they are very crisp, and have a more grainy texture. First and foremost, without being too obvious, the majority would be canned (brandied, water packed, simple syrup packed). Secondly, a few fresh pear tarts would be on the menu. Thirdly, a pear cordial to drink next month. And last, but not least, pear butter for the generous friend with a pear tree. I canned for three straight days, took a break for two days and started again. My wrists and hands got a mean workout peeling and slicing, and my kitchen steadily maintained 85 degrees throughout the canning process. But it was SO WORTH IT!

If you don’t have a garden, or a friend with a tree full of fruit, but you want to learn to can, then stop by your local farmers market and score a bunch of veggies or fruits. Find someone who knows how to can and ask them a zillion questions. Or, join a Facebook canning group – they are like canning encyclopedias. Take baby steps and process small batches. You don’t have to jump into it head first. Canning kits and pressure canners come with instructions. And, canning jars are everywhere these days thanks to Pinterest and everything DIY so you’ll have no problem finding them.

If I can do it, trust me, you can ‘CAN’ too! It’s fun, rewarding, and so satisfying…especially when you grab that jar of homegrown tomatoes 6 months down the road or when you reach for the jar of brandied pears on a cold winter evening to enjoy by the fire (can you tell I’m over summer already!?)

*If you are experienced in canning, please feel free to comment below and let us know your favorite foods to can and any special tips you have!

Cheers!  (with my pear cordial steeping below) – Joni