Now that I have mastered (translation: sort of understand) the art of pressure canning, I’ve taken it to new levels: mass production!
And just in time, too. For every tomato, pea pod, zucchini or carrot I harvest from my garden, six more pop up within an hour. This Oregon gardening thing is beyond my wildest nightmares.
I’ve spent so many days, plucking, washing, scraping, cutting, mincing, dicing and puree’ing vegetables, I could be my own Ronco tool! Don’t remember them? Ask your parents.
And since I (think I) have come so far in my canning experience, I figured I could can a whole bunch of stuff all at once. Multi-tasking. In one evening.
So, while bottles were washing in the dishwasher, I boiled up spices and vinegar in saucepans, diced up cucumbers and washed tomatoes. I scraped the skins off carrots — and then, I smelled something seriously wrong. Something petroleum-y.
The the smoke detectors started “chirping.” You know this sound. It is not pleasant.
Argh! It was the sandwich bags I toss/store on the stove — hey, for this non-cook, the stove is merely another surface! In my excitement to can, I kinda forgot to clear it off before cranking up the stovetop to HI to boil water. Silly me.
I’m waving dishcloths in the general direction of the detector, cranking the stove off and trying to put out this little petroleum fire I’ve got going on in my kitchen, all while motioning to the worried neighbors that I’ve got it under control. “Nothing to see here! Move along! Move along!”
The dog, always eager to help out in the kitchen, shook her head and walked outside.
The smoke cleared (although the odor is bound to stay all winter), and I began anew. Chop, whir, boil, mix, clean, slice. No problem. Got a rhythm going here!
Dump the carrots in boiling water to blanch for 90 seconds. Make sure the brine is boiling. Check on the dishwasher — timing is critical! Fill up another container — where’s another container!? — with cold water for the now-overcooked carrots.
Turn down the brine before it boils off or over.
Stuff carrots in the jar. Throw in a cucumber stick for fun. Fill the jar — oops! Overfill! Dump some out, wipe the jar, screw on a top — Ta-da! One!
And repeat. By the end, the house and I were smoky and steamy.
I guess I should only tackle one type of vegetable at a time. While nothing burned down, all the jars sealed and popped (gotta love that little pop!), and I was frazzled. The dog was still shaking her head.
“What,” I said to her. “What did I forget now?” (I always forget something.)
Then I heard it. The tomatoes! They’ve been whirring in the blender, creating a pink froth that’s bubbling over all over the counter, the floor. They weren’t even supposed to be IN the blender; I was going to freeze them until all the others finished popping up in the garden!
The cucumbers were supposed to be blending! And they’re in … the pot of brine! Oh, no, how did this happen?
The cold “stop-blanching” water was now warm. The pot to can everything in was bubbling over, each drop sizzling in protest as it hit the hot burner. The lid fell off, the boiling was so violent.
The tomatoes. Stop. The brine (with cucumbers in it). Off. The smoke detector chirped — an angry glance in its direction silenced it. The running water — and just how long have those peas been under that?!
By the end of the night, all my countertops were coated with veggie juice. The floor was sticky. The sink was piled so high I did four dishwasher loads. I went through nine dishtowels. The fire department only arrived once, but they didn’t come rolling in with lights and sirens this time.
The dog rolled her eyes.
Harumph to all ya’ll. I have eight pints of pickled carrots, a pint of pickle relish, and three of spaghetti sauce that I don’t remember cooking that night. I have tomato puree, really clean pea pods — and more, much, much more in the garden.
But I need a break. A little time to devise a less … ambitious plan.
I think I’ll do it over a rattling pressure canner filled with tuna!
Well, after I change those smoke detector batteries and find the dog.