Mr. W. and I have decided to take up canning for a couple of reasons. The first reason has to do with how we cook – we are both batch cookers. Even before we met, we both fed ourselves by cooking 3 or 4 days worth of something and living on leftovers until another batch of something was needed. And since our diets were still very different when we got together, we kept going this way. We find it saves us money in our respective budgets and obviously takes less planning, and cuts out the hassle of thinking of a new meal to eat every day. Lately, however, we’ve both been getting a little tired of our batches. I’m fine for the first two days, but by day three, I’m calling for takeout, and this is not a habit I want to get into. On the drive home from work last week, Mr. W. expressed the same feeling and wondered why we can’t make big batches of food and just stick it in jars so we have it for those takeout nights. I did some research and decided that we can.
Another reason has to do with our future tiny lifestyle – the tiny fridge in our tiny house won’t hold days and days worth of food. Canning will make it easy for us to have hearty, nutritious, tasty, ready-to-heat and eat meals on hand, easily stored in a cold storage hole dug below the frost line on whatever land we are on. Hopefully when the tiny house is done and we are on some land, we will be able to learn to garden, and canning our produce will be an awesome experience!
The last reason relates to store-bought canned food and the whole BPA issue. We make a lot of casseroles and curries and soups and stews and I always have little thoughts in the back of my mind when I open up a can of beans or tomatoes about what I’m really getting out of the can.
And so, with all this in mind, we bought a pressure canner, all the tools, and a whole bunch of dried chickpeas. From the advice I read online (of which there is a TON), I decided starting out with a batch of beans was a better choice than starting out with a big batch of soup or stew. This will give me the chance to get to know the canner and the process without ruining a bunch of food.
I soaked the beans overnight in a big pot on the stove and then cooked them this morning for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes I filled my clean, hot jars (I kept them hot in the canner with some water at a low simmer) with my clean ladle, and my clean funnel, and put on my clean snap lids (all kept clean in another pot of simmering water). Then my jars went back into to pressure canner to process for 75 minutes (specific to the jar size and food type), while the little 10 lb weight on top danced and spit and hissed two or three times per minute, telling me that I was maintaining my 10 lbs of pressure per square inch (particular to your elevation above sea level).
I bought a notebook so I could take detailed notes as I can different food items to use for future reference, and to possibly avoid making a mistake more than once. It’s also important to note how long a food item was cooked before the canning process, because if the food comes out too soft or mushy when it’s finally time to eat it, the cooking time will need to be adjusted next time.
My jar-filling setup took some thought. I have a small kitchen but the toughest part is that I don’t have any counter surface around my stove. Luckily, I have a chef’s cart that usually houses my toaster oven. I moved it for the day and wheeled the cart over to the stove so I could line up my hot jars and fill them here. You can see, my first fill was done with only one jar before I realized it would be easier and more convenient to have all my jars lined up and ready to be filled up. Then I was able to vinegar-wipe my rims all at once, place on my lids and rings, and then put them all back into the canner together. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to can at all in the tiny house – the kitchen itself won’t be too small but the stove top will be. But I’m looking forward to the possibility of using a community kitchen or making a friend who wants to spend days canning together.
The chef’s cart is also going to be their home for the next 24 hours, where they’ll sit on several tea towels and cool down before I mess with them at all. (And where the lids will make their satisfying “POP” as they seal up tight!). Tomorrow I’ll remove the rings and give the jars a good wipe down if they need it, replace the rings, and move them to their storage shelf in the cool, dark, dry closet of the yoga room.
I waited until the pressure dropped on its own before taking off the lid and even then, I was still a little nervous! When I opened up the canner I saw that none of my jars had broken or exploded or leaked and there was still some water touching the bottoms of them. (I was worried about the canner running dry during processing). The jars were still bubbling and hot and they looked awesome! They even started popping not too long after as they sealed up! I’ve read that a lot of canners say Thank You when their jars start sealing, so I’m following suit ;) Thank you canning gods for sealing my jars!
When I finally took the jars from the canner and placed them on the cart, I noticed that one jar may have in fact cracked. I can’t see a crack or any damage, however, it hasn’t stopped bubbling inside yet and it seems like it’s letting air in from somewhere. The others are looking good though and I’m pretty proud of them sitting on my counter, all BPA-free and ready to be stored and eaten :) (Unless of course they are no good since they are not fully covered with water at the tops of the jars anymore…I’ll have to look into it.
You can see where the water line is and how some of the chickpeas are peeking out above it.
And this is the one that I’m not sure about, thinking it might have a small crack somewhere.
Anywho, all in all I’m still very excited about my canner’s maiden voyage and I’m already planning my next session :)
Do you do any canning? What are your favourite foods to can and have on hand? Share down below!