I can can

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I bought this $6 gem of a book at Winners last month. For awhile now I’ve wanted to try out canning so we could have tons of goods on hand at home. I also remember making the best canned green beans in home ec in high school and always wanted to make them again.

Last week I visited a couple of different farmer markets and came back with enough produce to try a few different things. Sadly no green beans. It will have to wait.

I followed the recipe to a T which wasn’t the smartest thing. I’m not the hugest fan of hot foods but I kept chopping up the tiny red chiles until I had 1/3 cup. I assumed since I’d be making cans and cans of salsa (I ended up with six) I’d need more chiles to proportionally spice each can. I ended up with a pretty hot salsa which I can choke back but mostly, my husband eats it.

The operation takes about four or so hours  from start to finish. I bought my canning pot and tongs (to handle the mason jars) from the Co-op as well as the jars. My jars didn’t stay standing up in the pot but it didn’t seem to matter.

The biggest pain is the first step: cutting up 14 cups of tomatoes. You have to take the seeds out and cut the skin off so you end up with way less fruit from each tomato. It suggested six pounds which I requested at a farmer’s market but ended up having to go to the Co-op for more because six pounds only got me seven cups. Also, a funnel would help. I made a soppy mess trying to get the salsa into the cans.

1)Turn on some music – or you’ll go insane. Cut up 14 cups of tomatoes into big chunky chunks (have fun!). Put them in a colander as you cut them. Let them drain for about half and hour. I did this and only a small amount of clear water came out. I don’t know if that’s the purpose or if more tomato juice should have spilled out. My salsa was a little on the runny side.

2) After the draining is done place them in a big-ass pot and bring to a boiling then reduce the heat. Simmer un-covered for 1 to 1.5 hours. Don’t think you can sit and relax though. You have to stir constantly. Besides, you have tons more to cut up. Such as:

  • 10 Anaheim or poblano chile peppers (I don’t know what they are. I googled them and they looked like every other chili I’ve seen. I roamed a couple of grocery stores until I found a basket that said “Anaheim” but there were two different types in the basket! So I guessed and bough the huge long ones that almost look like normal green peppers. They don’t have a lot a lot of spice).
  • 3 jalapeno or serrano chile peppers (And yes, wear gloves when cutting these. Or wash your hands well ’cause they’re gonna burn. Get the seeds out when you chop ’em up).
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup snipped fresh cilantro or parsley
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced

Other ingredients you’ll need:

  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 1/2 a six oz can of tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

3)Add chili peppers, onions, vinegar, cilantro, tomato paste, sugar, salt, black pepper and garlic to tomatoes. Bring it to a boil and reduce the heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Remove from heat. (This is a good time to start sterilizing your jars in the canner. Fill the canner about halfway with water. Dunk the cans in and put on the lid). Also start the lids – but research this. You don’t want them to boil because it ruins the glue or whatever keeps the cans sealed.

4) Ladle the salsa into the cans. You want to leave a 1/2 inch space from the rim to the salsa. Wipe the jars down and put the lids on. As soon as you fill a jar, put it in the pot and then take out the next jar. You don’t want to take them out all at once and do as an assembly line. They need to be hot. So once you’ve got your cans in the pot again, bring it to a boil and cover for 15 minutes. Take them from the pot and cool for 15 minutes.

I totally freaked out when canning because I never heard the suction sound of the lids going don. I thought I remembered being told in high school that you should hear the sound as soon as the lid is placed on the can – not so. It wasn’t until they were out of the pot that I heard them one by one. Once the cans cool you should tap the centre of the lid. If it’s bouncy the seal didn’t work. If that’s the case, the seal didn’t work and you need to keep it in your fridge and eat the salsa in a week. Or have a huge salsa party to get rid of it all.

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