Sunday, August 5, 2018

Sunday Stroke Survival: Canning Post Stroke, My Take

I've always been an avid food preserver. I was proud of the way I was providing for my family and saving money at the same time. My pantry, under the beds, and even closets were full of food stuff I needed. This was especially true when I had little ones around. Every penny saved counted.

After the children were grown, my thinking partially shifted to the importance of not eating genetically modified foods, over fertilized and pesticized foods  and additives. My allergies wouldn't allow it. Not that this wasn't important for my growing children, but it was more about quantity versus quality. GMOs didn't exist when my children were growing up. Oh heck, that still didn't come out right, but you know what I mean, right?

Canning is easier these days without kids at home. First, there are no distractions. No seeing where the children are before lifting the lid or moving hot jars. No "Whatcha doing? Can I help." No squabbling about "John's piece of peach is bigger than mine!" !"or "Eww! there's skin on mine" I had some strange kids, but I loved it. They would forego the dessert bar and head for the fruit bar in restaurants with no prompting from me. Except for maybe ice cream, they preferred fresh fruit. Now, the vegetables or fruits that I can may have little pieces of skin left on them. I'm not so careful peeling anything so every smidgen of edible product goes into the jar. If the size of the cuts are different who really cares. We are all adults here.

Organic foods were very pricey and hard to come by so I gardened. I knew where my food came from and how they were grown. It would be heirloom or organically grown without scarcity or high price, and it was healthy for all of us. But, I had to eat without having severe allergic reactions. Canning, dehydrating, and freezing only made sense and cents. I still got hormones and stuff from meat products, but it didn't overload my histamines with the organic vegetables. At least, it was marginally successful. It's hard when you are not allergic to only strawberries, corn, and pine but show allergic tendencies to everything else.

Fast forward to today, I still organic garden. I still preserve my own food. When you garden it's a  feast or famine type of existence unless you preserve your harvest. But living post stroke has its challenges in this area, but not over not impossible.

It takes extra steps to can vegetables and meats. Pressure canners are heavy and lifting it one-handed while empty is a cumbersome process, but once it's on the stove, it gets easier. I'll set up my canner and assorted pots the night before a canning day. This way I'm not having to expend energy on canning days. During the summer and fall harvest times, my canner lives on my stove empty or full.

Canning day  step by step...
  1. The day before-Gather canning supplies- pots on the stove, prep as many vegetables as I can. Fill the required amounts of liquid in the canner and pots. My 23-qt pressure canner takes 2 gallons of water to get the required 2"-3" water level. Now my water bath canner takes 5 gallons. That's a lot of back and forth to the faucet. But there is no way I can lift the canners with water in them one- handed. Not without spilling water everywhere.
  2. Put jars, rings, and lids in my dishwasher. Mine is an older model and it takes 2 hours to run a full cycle with drying time.
  3. Continue prepping vegetables to can. This can take an hour to half a day depending on the recipe and amounts to be canned.
  4. Gather all the other canning supplies ladles, measuring cups and spoons, canning funnel, air debubblers stick (a wooden chopstick), and magnetic lid lifter. Pour vinegar (3 ozs) into my Mom's Japanese tea cup to clean rims with. The balance of this vinegar will be poured into the canner to soften any minerals in the water. About two or more paper towel folded to clean the rims with. Gather any spices or herbs that I need for the recipe. Double check my math when I'm halving or quadrupling the recipe.
  5. Make my brine or fluid mixture and cook it as necessary. I make two recipes worth at a time for large batch canning.
  6. If I'm small batching water bath canning, I'll use my largest pot for up to six jars instead of my enamel water bath canner. For my water bath canner I've replaced the rack with a standard rack. It's easier to lift each jar out one at a time instead of how I'd have to lift on handle of the canning rack and then do the other side.The jars don't tilt and they seal better. The canner will hold 12 jars instead of 7. I have used the standard canning rack and lifted and lowered the rack with a long 1" dowel rod, but this way is easier.
  7. Process and removing jars from canner.
  8. Cleaning up is the reverse of the set up. All small ware:measuring cups and spoons, canning equipment, bowls or buckets for ingredients, etc wash first. There isn't a dishwasher made except commercial ones that can handle canners so this will be washed by hand after emptying the canner water out one jug at a time. Dry and put away until next time.
The prep work and canning take twice as long working one-handed. I was lamenting to my roommate
that it took me all day Friday to do 18 pint jars of sliced peaches, when I could have done 18 qt jars before my stroke. All the peeling and slicing of the peaches (1/2 a bushel worth) took me 12 hours! She told me, "At least you could do it." Yes I did it. Talk about your words coming back to bite you on the hinny.

The next day, Saturday, I did 7 jars of zucchini pickle relish and 8 jars of bread and butter pickles. I put the cucumbers, zucchini, and bell peppers into the ice chest with salt, water and ice to hang out overnight. I prepped all the vegetables while I was canning the peaches. I chopped the Vidala onions, zucchini, and green pepper chunks to go into the relish while the pickles were in the water bath. The Vidala onions chopper to the rescue once again. I love my slap chopper. It made small dicing the 10 baby zucchini (4"-6" long), 2 Vidala onions and the pepper a breeze!

Then it was on to prep the bushel of green beans. I grow Provider bush green beans because they don't have strings. Just the idea of having to string green beans one-handed is stuff for nightmares for me. Prepping them is simply snapping off the ends and snapping them into pieces. Easy to do one-handed. The beans are thick and meaty versus the kind you find usually canned or find fresh in the grocery store. But after snapping the bushel ( 2-3 gallon buckets full of snaps) one-handed my fingers and thumb were sore. I ended up with 48 jars of green beans in my weekend canning session. With what I had in my pantry from last year, we can now eat green beans once a week for a harvest season. That's without me canning any more. It's only the beginning of the green bean harvest for the year. I'm hoping for eating green beans twice a week, but I doubt I'll reach my dreamed of goal.

Although it only takes 20 minutes to can green beans, they have to be pressure canned which means raising the temperature (15 minutes), vent steam for ten minutes, then, the pressure based on altitude (15 lbs of pressure for us -about 20 minutes), processing, and finally bringing the pressure back down again.After this last wait, two hours, the liquid in the jars is still boiling away. Remove the jars and start again for the next batch of 21 jars. I did 3 canner loads of green beans over the weekend. I never run a half filled canner. I'll fill the space with soaked dried beans or other vegetable.

After the jars sit on the breakfast room table for twenty-four hours, I'll remove the retaining rings, wash each jar, label it, and put them back into their original boxes for Mel to carry out to the pantry. While I could do this, I make Mel work for her food. LOL I now use Avery freeware to print my labels on the jars instead of hand writing with a Sharpie because I want to read it months from now. I'll add the jars to Mel's inventory program so I can keep track of what I've processed. Then I'm done until next time.

The next huge canning day will be tomatoes. I see at least a bushel worth hanging on the plants now,Tomato sauce and canned tomatoes here I come, Then it's BBQ sauce, sloppy Joe's sauce, pizza sauce, salsa, and Ketchup. Oh boy!

Nothing is impossible.


  1. Home canned food is delicious but I am glad I did it wen I had two good hands.

  2. I still do it one handed. You are right, it is delicious and I know what's in it.


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