Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My First Six Pints

I remember complaining years ago about having to eat home-canned food, all strange and sloshy and combined into weird things called "chow chow" and such.  I can hear myself now.  "Can't we just get the REAL thing at the store?"   Did you ever feel the same way?  "Homemade Mac and Cheese???  But I want the blue box!"  Oh, marketing.  How you fooled me then.  I stopped eating canned foods a while back, because they are just so nutritionally lacking, often full of things I don't recognize, and well, just so processed tasting.  I'll admit to succumbing to the convenience of canned tomato products and black beans, but small confessions aside, that lifestyle change left some slim pickins come winter time.  Now that I am gardening and drooling over sun-ripened peaches and the like at our local farmers' market, I have decided that my grandma was onto something.   I make chutneys.  I make salsa.  Why not can them while I have all these tasty ingredients right at my dirt-covered fingertips?  

The thought of canning seemed intimidating (what with dials and knobs and boiling water and botulism), so I took a basics class at a local farm.  Turns out, both the class and the chore were easy and delightful.  So now that I feel no fear of large steel pressurized pots, I've decided I can can.  I will can. 

I'm currently in Oklahoma with my parents drooling over my dad's exceptionally beautiful and abundant garden.  I swear his plants come out of the ground throwing squash, zucchini, peppers and corn at him.  We are in the (literal and figurative) heat of cucumber season and his bucket runneth over.  I've desperately tried to eat them all.  I've even contemplated slicing them over my morning bowl of Kashi.  But it appears that the only way to prevent waste (the horror) is to put them in a can.  Since I'm new to the sport, I picked a simple, 5-ingredient waterbath recipe called "Best-Ever Dill Pickles."  Prep time:  30 minutes.  Processing time:  10 minutes.  It goes like this:

In the beginning, there were jars.

In the middle, there was a lot of slicing.

In the end, there were pickles.  

Then, I cheated.  The directions say to wait one week before opening, but that must be only for those who have made their own pickles before or who possess more will-power than this first-timer.  The result?  Delicious.  Simple.  Plentiful.  Will need garlic.  (But then, really, doesn't everything?)  

This summer, I have dreams of a pantry full of jars filled with all things strange and sloshy.  And no blue boxes.  My kids can thank me later.

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