I was up late, late, late last night. Until 3 am. Because I had so much food to put in the fridge, and not enough room for all of it, I had to take out the two roasted turkeys I cooked the day before. I had deboned them and put the pieces in 9 x 13 pans with the intent to can them as my first canning project the following day. But I had to accelerate my plans so that the food I had didn’t spoil for lack of refrigeration.
I’ve been very interested in the idea of canning for quite some time. This year, I decided I’m going to stop being interested in the idea and learn how to do it! Four weeks ago, I bought a large number of jars from someone who was downsizing her canning since her sons were in college. Then two different people from Craig’s List gave me some smaller canning jars. Two weeks later, the canner I bought on Amazon arrived (Presto 23 quart size). Several days ago, my mom picked up the canning tools kit that I was still needing. I checked out canning books from the library and read several to get an idea of what was involved. Plus I did bunches of online reading.
So I was finally ready, and just in time to rescue my food from ruin. I had a good bit of trepidation about using a pressure canner – what little I had ever heard about pressure cookers scared me and intimidated me. But vegetables and meats have to be pressure canned for them to be safely preserved, so there was no way around it.
Since it was my first time, it was a long process. First I had to prepare the jars, lids, heat up the turkey until it was hot, prepare stock to pour on top of the turkey – and that was before I started canning anything. Then I filled each of the jars with turkey pieces, poured stock on top to fill the space, closed them up and when the canner was full, I closed the lid and began exhausting the steam from inside the pot. That meant boiling it until the steam came out the top, then letting it boil another ten minutes with the steam coming through the vent hole – I think the purpose is to get rid of all the air inside. But I might be mixed up about the whys of it.
Anyway, after that, I put the pressure regulator on top of the vent hole, and watched the dial gauge register the pressure. It took a few minutes for the pressure to start to build enough for the gauge to register, but it started rising steadily. Once it hit 11 pounds of pressure, I turned the heat down and kept an eye on it to be sure it didn’t drop below that or go above that. It took 90 minutes to process once the pressure reached the desired number. And then when I finally could turn it off, I had to wait for the pressure to totally come down before I could open it.
So it took a long time. It wasn’t a lot of hands on time, most of it was in preparing in the beginning, and then needing to be close by to keep an eye on it. If this was in the middle of the day, it wouldn’t have been such a pain. But the hour got later and later and I was exhausted before I even started – I started a little before midnight. While I was waiting for it finish processing, my 13 year old daughter started making mulberry jam. (I didn’t mention that after a long day of shopping, we came home, unpacked for a half hour and then took my son to his little league baseball game. Or that right after that, we picked mulberries near the field for a half hour. And then we finally got home and had a late dinner and eventually put most of the kids to bed before I started all of this.)
Fruit jams don’t require pressure cooking, they just need a water bath processing. So since I had to be awake and in the kitchen anyway, after she prepared the jam and filled the jars, I sent her to sleep and put that on the stove to cook as well.
When it was finally all done, I had seven quarts of turkey lined up on my counter, along with eight jars of jam. It was a very satisfying sight. And especially nice to know that this is food that will stay good indefinitely, regardless of power outtages, and ready for me to use on a busy day. Not only that, I was able to take advantage of the turkey being on sale, when usually I would be forced to pass it by or buy less because I wouldn’t have had room for it. So there’s a financial savings in it, too.
Tonight I made 5 quarts of dilled carrots, using dill from our garden and baby carrots that I picked up on sale yesterday (5 lb for $2). Remember the issue I have with insufficient fridge space? So 8 pounds of baby carrots were transformed into a tasty side dish that won’t need refrigerating until each jar is opened. It’s very liberating! I have a 16 quart pot on the stove simmering with stock as I write. Tomorrow I plan to can large jars of stock. That way I’ll have smaller amounts whenever I need it to cook with. I enjoy having an ever present pot of soup or stock simmering on the stove in the winter, but I welcome it less in the summer!
I’m also planning to can bean soups, beans, and chilis, and if our garden gives us enough produce, then I’ll use the extra to preserve the taste of summer vegetables for the winter. Now I need to get lots more jars – I thought when I got 6.5 dozen large, 6.5 dozen medium, and about 5 dozen small that I would have plenty. But they get filled up very quickly!