In the kitchen

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Sunday, November 21, 2010


I decided that this year (in addition to being able to do 5 pull ups- a goal I likely won't fulfill) I would learn how to hot water can.

I can can, I told myself.

After some haphazard trying with just a collection of information in my head and some desperate, in the moment texting to my friend Chris for boiling times and clearance amounts, that it was time to purchase the Ball Blue Book- guide to preserving.  Alternate title: The Bust Your Balls Book.

I imagine this book written a gaggle of no-nonsense early 1900's grandmotherly housewives sporting gray buns (of the face-lift nature), glasses atop their noses with beaded chains dangling down and making sharp tsking noises when ever one of them stepped out of line (such as suggesting it would would more healthful NOT to add 6 cups of sugar to a batch of jam.)

To give you an idea of the tone of the book these are some of the words and phrases used throughout:
"never","accurately","must","required", "followed exactly", "not recommended", "not interchangeable", "not reliable", "must be avoided", "check all equipment a day ahead of time", "carefully", "use only", "cannot be properly fitted", "inadequate", "failure rate is very high", "essential", "follow recipe guidelines as stated" "do not make substitutions or changes to the recipe or method", "must be followed exactly." These ladies take rule following and botulism SERIOUSLY.

I FINALLY learned the difference between jam (made by cooking crushed fruits with sugar- firm, but spreadable) and jelly (juice strained from fruit and then thickened) and marmalade (soft jelly with pieces of fruit suspended throughout.)  Don't you too now feel some part of your life is complete with this knowledge?

Well, I don't know about you, but I LOVE to be told what I am doing when I cook.

Nevertheless, I embarked with my little old ladies in an attempt to make bread and butter pickles.  They would have disapproved heartily of my willy-nilly approach.   I could hear the heavy sighing and tongue clucking of my imaginary critics but I persevered.

First, you cook a batch of pickles on the stove, heat it to boiling (on a thermometer, not just bubbling- turns out that boiling can be a good 10 minutes after bubbling), funnel pickles into hot waiting jars to 1/4 inch clearance, push out air bubbles, cover with heated tops to make rubber seal stick, screw on lids and drop into waiting boiling canner.  Boil for 20 minutes and try not to end up being Lifeflighted out of your kitchen with 3rd degree burns as you extract the cans from the boiling water.

I don't think I did too badly.  They tasted good.  We heard the POP! as they cooled which confirms a vacuum seal.

I guess we will find out this winter when we eat them if we will die of botulism!

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