I’m a beaten and battered locavore foodie tonight. As is my Virgoan tendency, I bit off more than I could chew. With Chris away on his San Diego bachelor party adventure (so jealous!) I decided to make the most of some new equipment I invested in recently, and get down to business canning.
First on the list was the beets I’ve been neglecting in the garden all summer. This is what happens when you neglect beets for months and months. They mutate into hideous beasts. Those suckers weighed 2 lbs each!!
One of the pieces of equipment I recently bought is an outdoor propane burner meant for canning. I had actually bought one from Bass Pro Shop a few weeks ago designed for fish frying, but when I found this one at my local Fortinos grocery store of all places this week (on sale!), I had to buy it (sorry — I put it away and forgot to take a photo but this is the one, by Aurora). It’s incredibly sturdy and much better value than the one from Bass Pro. It was tucked away among all the canning supplies and the bushels of tomatoes at Fortinos, and it performed beautifully — even after a thunderstorm swept through and I had to run for cover and leave it out in the rain.
The first thing I tested on the burner was running the canning bath for a bunch of the beets. I often have problems getting the seals to go down on wide mouth jars, but processing them on the propane burner seemed to help with that. Maybe it was because I wasn’t fudging with the heat/burner to ensure that my pot didn’t boil over (I used my biggest stock pot, 16L, outside on the burner).
Next, was to tackle the bushel of tomatoes I bought last night. Last year I turned a bushel of tomatoes into sauce, but for some reason this year the task seemed monumental, but only after I got started and realized just how insane this decision was. Next time — must invite friends and get bigger pots.
With the sauce though, I wanted to try out the nifty new 22 QT Mirro Pressure Canner that Chris bought me (he’s such an enabler. I adore him!). The canner has three pressure control valves, each designed to hold pressure at 5, 10 and 15 PSI. Problem was that the diagram in the manual is a joke, and the valves aren’t labeled. I decided to wing it and chose the middle size to hopefully achieve the 10 PSI I needed.
So… the theory is that, for tomatoes anyway, the pressure canner reduces the amount of processing time required. Instead of 40 mins in a hot water bath you can do them for 15 mins in the pressure canner at 10 PSI (for 1L jars). Problem is that you have to let the pressure reduce after that 15 mins before you can open the canner, which takes 45 mins to an hour! And the canner only holds 5 1L jars, which was about a third of what I needed to process. Because of that aforementioned thunderstorm, I finished most of the sauce canning indoors but I did try out the pressure canner (scary at first!) and I’m pretty happy with it, despite the fact that it doesn’t really speed things up for me in the way I’d thought. I might have to make a video sometime to show how to use it (I was stumped for about an hour, trying to comprehend the horrible manual; and there don’t seem to be any ‘how to’ videos of this model online). I love the idea of being able to can low acid items like my stocks — it will save room in the freezer and save on having to microwave or wait for them to thaw. I also love that you can stack pint jars in it, so that makes processing quicker for the smaller types of jars anyway. And perhaps knowing that I can process a limited amount of tomatoes in it, but faster, will lead to me not buying such ridiculous amounts of tomatoes in the first place. It would be far less stressful on my constitution if I just did things in moderation. But then maybe I wouldn’t be me. Ha!
Now for the really crazy part? What I processed today doesn’t represent any of the tomatoes in my garden. Those are late this year and just barely starting to ripen. But remember how I made my garden bigger this year? Yeah. I’m in trouble. There’s this little thing called a wedding coming up. What was I thinking?!