I Think, Therefore I Can
I think, therefore I can. Amidst the abundant summer harvest, I consider our winter provisions. A peek in the cellar revealed empty shelves, and the Blue Lake beans were perfect. After sending 12 bushels of beans to Nashville, we picked two more for ourselves.
With many helping hands, the beans are snapped, rinsed and set on the stove to boil. Quart jars are washed; I’m figuring a canner load of seven for every ½ bushel. While the beans are boiling that jars are scalded and the lids are immersed in boiling water. I add a teaspoon of salt to the jar and fill it with hot beans and water to ¼” from the top. Everything is hot. The top of the jar gets wiped clean, the lid screwed on and they are set in a pressure canner.
All of the low acid vegetables are canned in a pressure canner at 2400, or 10 pounds of pressure. My mom canned a lot and so have I, but I still like to look at the old, worn-out Ball Blue book. It has all of the useful information you need, plus step by step instructions and many recipes.
Green beans are done after 25 minutes at 10 pounds pressure. After the canner is taken off the stove, more jars are scalded, filled and sealed. When the pressure is down to zero, I take off the canner lid, but let it sit on it for few minutes so cooler air doesn’t rush in and break the jar. Canner tongs remove the jar and set the new ones in.
A fine pickle I’ve got myself into; with 20 bushels of cucumbers each week it was obvious what needed to happen. We grow Kirby cucumbers, the shorter, squat ones for pickling. The smaller ones are sorted out after washing, making out for a nice break on the couch. Then it’s busy beaver time. Each jar gets a grape leaf, which has alum in it and helps keep the pickle crisp. We get all of the ingredients out and wash the jars and lids.
The brine is a ½ gallon of water, ½ gallon of apple cider vinegar and a cup of salt. The cukes are packed in scalded jars whole or sliced, and then we add a teaspoon of dill seed, ½ teaspoon of black peppercorns and a few cloves of garlic. After sealing with the hot lids, we water bath them for 10 minutes in a large kettle of boiling water. When they come out they sing “ping, ping, ping,” and we know they’re sealed. Bread and butter pickles are made with no dill or garlic, but onions, celengseed, tameric, ginger and sugar.
Grey mold is creeping through the tomato patch and will diminish the harvest. As we load the van on Monday, my workers pull out a few bushels of the dead ripe ones. “You’re canning today,” they inform me, “get it while you can.”
So, I pull out the bad ones and wash the good ones as water begins to boil. They’re dipped in the boiling water until the skins slip, then plunged into cold water. Cored and skinned, they’re back in a pot to cook down. A ½ bushel of peppers are cut up, along with a peck of onions, and added to about two bushels of tomatoes. I put some in smaller pans to cook down faster, and eventually they are in jars and water bathed for 30 minutes.
All of this takes hours, and often goes on till midnight. The labor is not hard, but beginning the daunting task requires commitment to finish it. I’m reminded of the children’s book about the little red engine trying to climb the hill, over and over he says, “I think I can, I think I can.”