Saturday, September 29, 2012

Channeling my inner Portlandia

Last Friday I went to get beets and beans to pickle on Saturday with my friend Sarah.

But, once again I could not resist the allure of the 10 pound bag of baby cucumbers. At home I also had two Tomboncino squash and about five pounds of green tomatoes from a friend's garden.

The result? 36 jars of pickles: 14 pints of dilled green tomatoes, 8 quarts of baby dills, 5 pints of curried squash spears, and 9 half pints of cornichons.

Here are some snapshots of the day's work:

Squash spears and cubes salted for several hours to wick away extra liquid before being canned.


Beautifully hued brine for curried squash pickles.

I just could not let these beauties go to waste. Who knows, this might become a recipe favorite for years to come?

Some of Friday's haul.

Saturday I introduced Sarah to my version of canning mania by setting out to can 40 pounds of tomatoes, 15 pounds of green beans, and 25 pounds of beets.

Fortunately our friend Kate also joined us for a little while, almost single handedly peeling all of the beets.


Kate taking a break from beets to blanch some tomatoes. (Sorry Kate, I know this is not a great photo, but it is the only one I have!)

Sarah taking a turn at peeling the beets after many pounds of tomatoes.

Every year I forget what a labor of love each of these items are to can. Each has several preparation steps to complete before putting anything into a jar, let alone the water bath!

The tomatoes must be peeled (and deseeded if that is your preference), the beets cooked and then peeled, and the green bean's ends removed. The beans also have the challenge that they float in the jars unless you really cram them in - the process of which is a bit of an art form that I have to re-learn each year I can them.

Altogether we had about 80 pounds of food to can which took about 8 hours to complete. The result? About 18 quarts of canned tomatoes, 24 quarts of pickled beets, and 10-12 quarts of Zydeco dilly beans.

Here are some more photos from the mayhem, er, day's work:

Blanched tomatoes awaiting peeling.

Peeled tomatoes with lemon juice and salt await hot water which is added to the jars. Before the tops are placed on the jars the air bubbles must be removed and the rims of the jars swiped to remove anything that would compromise making a seal.

We used two pots, one on Sarah's stove indoors and one on a crab pot burner outside. What an adventure!

 Some of the finished product.

At the end of the process Sarah said to me something along the lines of "Well, that was fun. AND, a lot of hard work! I am not sure if I would do it again."

That made me think.

I tend to can large amounts at a time with the thought that it makes sense once you have everything out. In addition, I can put away enough food in 3-5 days a year for most of our holiday gifts plus a good amount for us to pull from for the rest of the year.

But, that is not for everyone.

When I think about it, my main reason for canning with friends is to spend time with them and to have fun. So, next time I might just start of small and do one recipe. That way, everyone has fun, and hopefully so much so that they get the canning bug too - well, at least once a year so we can make it an annual thing!

When on my own? Time, energy and having enough jars can be the limit.

As I have started saying to friends, "If you hold still long enough around me, I am liable to pickle you. Can it, Portland!"

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