Monday, September 6, 2010

I CAN do it!

I turned into an 80 year old woman today, folks.  Okay, well maybe not literally.  I learned how to can today and I might have a slight obsession with Ball jars now.  There is something about all the gadgets and the rewarding "pop" of the can sealing for the first time.  There is also something to hanging out in my parents non-air conditioned house while it is 90 degrees outside and running the stove for the past 10 hours.  I'm a little warm right now and I may be suffering from heat exhaustion.

My school had a fundraiser this year where they sold peaches and other produce.  I decided to buy some (anything for the kids, right?) and try canning.  My Mom is a master food preserver through the county extension office.  Somehow this knowledge never quite landed in my lap.  I grew up amidst all the rings, lids, lifters, stockpots, and pressure cookers, but my sentiment towards it all always fell towards apathy.  I decided my brave thing for the week would be to can the hell out of some fresh, locally grown produce.  That's right, I kicked canning ass.  Hearing this story on NPR this week sealed the deal for me (pun intended).

Now, I know that in order to preserve something, you need to use either sugar or vinegar.  Neither of which is exactly paleo, so I guess just look the other way on this.  :)  The Victoria Sauce that I made is definitely bad for you, but the Chili Sauce is decent.

It is super important when canning to use a recipe that has been tested and published.  Because canning is more or less a science experiment, you want to make sure that the acidity levels are not one that would grow something terrible like botulism.  For this reason, don't make up your own recipe and try to can it.

Victoria Sauce
My parents have rhubarb that grows in their backyard.  I found this recipe in the Ball Blue Canning Book and decided to try it out.  Most years it seems like their rhubarb goes to waste except for a few stalks that always find their way into a pie.  This sauce is extremely sweet.  I tried it today with my porkchops and it was pretty good.  I think it would be really good on top of a pancake or maybe stirred into some applesauce.

2 quarts chopped rhubarb (about 12 stalks)
1 1/2 c. chopped raisins
1/2 c. chopped onion
3 1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. vinegar
1 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. salt

Combine rhubarb, raisins, onion, sugar, and vinegar in a large saucepot.  Cook until thick, about 25 minutes.  As mixture thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking.  Add spices; cook 5 minutes longer.  Ladle hot sauce into sterilized, hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Adjust with sterilized two piece caps.  Process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes.  Since I'm canning at altitude in Colorado, I did a 25 minute hot water bath.

Chili Sauce
This recipe is something my grandmother used to always make.  In my family, we pronounce this chill-a sauce.  Why?  I don't know, but we do, so you better too.  This is a spice-rich salsa that ends up tasting sweet.  I always grew up eating this on top of porkchops (and so did my mother).  I bet it would be a great accompaniment to any meat really though.

4 qts. peeled, cored, chopped red-ripe tomatoes (about 24 large)
2 c. chopped onions
1 1/2 to 2 c. chopped sweet green peppers
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. celery seed
1 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1 to 1 1/2 c. vinegar

Combine all ingredients.  Bring to a boil; simmer until thick as desired (about 1 to 2 hours).  Stir frequently to prevent sticking.  Pour hot sauce into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Wipe jar rims.  Adjust lids and process.  Process in a hot water bath.


  1. Thanks so much for sharing your story. How is the Victoria Sauce? Seems kind of chutney-ish to me.

    FYI, I posted this to my Hot Water Bath facebook group, too, so more people can enjoy.

  2. Good for you Beth!! I grew up in a kitchen full of canning equipment too! In fact, I remember helping my mom can tomatoes a lot, and green beans, and dill pickles...As I understand it, the main reason for using sugar in canning isn't because it is necessary for the preservation process, but rather because it helps fruit maintain its texture and color. You can use fruit juice or water, but still use the hot pack canning method. Maybe next summer I will revive the tradition too, you've inspired me. I'm just too lazy to do it this summer. :)

  3. Thanks Marsha and Sara! The Victoria sauce is very sweet and you are right, tastes a lot like a chutney. I had it on top of pork chops and it was delicious. I think it would be great on ham or turkey too. Thanks for sharing my story, Marsha! :)