And it was a big deal.
I'm not even slightly exaggerating when I say that I read the instructions 15 times for fear of blowing up my apartment. And then there was the fear of botulism; but that's more of "campfire scary story" fear, so I take precautions and don't let it keep me up at night. This particular adventure stemmed from the fact that we had wanted to try canning garlic and meat, both of which are unsafe if processed without pressure.
Interesting twist in the story? Despite my dire fears, it was so much fun. You know why? Because we had a canning party and I'm all about it. Never shalt thou can alone again.
First of all, fun fact: you can rent a pressure canner (and all sorts of other cool stuff) so if you live in a tiny place like me you don't need to find storage space. We were able to book online and picked one up at Homestead Junction just down the street. Word to the wise: they're not the most organized business, so give yourself a few minutes to do the pick up. It's not quite as efficient as you may want.
And then invite over some friends. We had a full on beer-drinking canning party with Matthew's brother and sister-in-law who were vising from out of town. Dinner was, obviously, tacos: quick and allowed some people to prep garlic while others got food on the table. Bonus points if you can invite people over who grow their own garlic because O.M.G. I'm going to want to put that on everything so quantity is key. Quantity is actually key in anything you can... the prep is what takes the time, so you might as well fill the whole canner full of jars to make it worth while. Also a great gift idea if you don't think you need that much of anything.
Does and don'ts:
- Everything takes longer than you expect (especially when you get distracted by beer drinking), so if you're going to have a canning party DO give yourself time so you're not stressed out about getting everything done. No one wants to be the person who leaves early and sticks the host with clean up.
- DO clean as much as you can off your counters or dinner table and set up stations for prep and any cooking that has to happen, as well as sterilizing and filling jars. Dividing up tasks keeps everyone focused rather than wandering aimlessly.
- You're likely going to produce quite a bit of organic waste from skins, pits, and cut-off bad bits so DO have big discard bowls out as well as plenty of damp towels to clean as you go.
- Accidentally exploding a jar in the canner and not realizing it until everything is out and covered in goo is THE WORST so DON'T think that you can fill any jars more than an inch from the rim. To save your sanity that means using the largest size jars you can so that you don't have to do a million tiny ones.
Pressure canning is serious stuff so that you don't make anyone sick, so ALWAYS follow an approved recipe. But as long as you're not going off the cuff there's no reason why you can't have epic success. And honestly, the combination of practically free entertainment for a night and delicious things to eat all winter is a win in my books.
Spend a rainy fall evening with your kids or a group of friends turning your kitchen into a sauna and then let me know what you made!