20190926 00139 8 minutes
Homesteading, pressure canning, pressure cooker, apartment life, country life, veggies, canning,

Now, some years’ later, much water has passed under that mythical bridge.

No more cabin in the woods, with four freezers in varying stages of overflow.

No more “Poor Man’s Root Cellar,” a fort made of 50 bales of hay to keep Jack Frost’s fingers away from the veggies and the jars full of fruit, chutneys and jams.

It’s apartment living for me, now. But that’s no excuse for changing my eating habits. It just makes it that much greater a challenge! With only one freezer (no longer the BIG one!) there isn’t room for all the squash, broccoli, carrots and cabbage etc., which means they have to be canned in jars, like the fruit, but it isn’t as easy as that. Nothing ever is.

Once again, in the late Fall, my friends at Shaul’s over-filled my poor little FIT to bursting, but this year the veggies had to be put in a storage unit – still using the garbage cans and sleeping bags etc. I went up in early November so, after the holidays, the problem of how to cope with them had to be addressed.

Winter vegetables have to be sterilized in a pressure canner at 240° to kill all that pesky botulism. That meant finally acquiring a pressure canner – and they aren’t exactly cheap, or light.

After doing my usual over-thorough research I decided which one was best, considering I would probably be using it for quite a long time. Then it was a question of screwing up my courage to permit myself to buy it. It is gorgeous, fantastic, and wonderful, but also extremely heavy, and I was scared stiff of it. Of course, the bestest one is the most expensive one of its type. I thought of all those veggies waiting in the storage unit to be taken care of – and ordered it. No point in buying them and having them go bad.

My pride and joy arrived and more than exceeded expectations.

Squash is much harder to prepare than fruit. It is tough. Cutting and peeling it requires a very sharp, or serrated, knife, and a strong arm. It has been a long session, (two and a half months,) of peeling, chopping and slicing.

Another gadget I treated myself to was a professional dicer for the squash and potatoes. It’s great. First they have to be peeled and sliced, then the slice is put on the razor-grid and the pusher brought down so the slice goes through the holes, my version of a guillotine! It’s quick and uniform. I did my research on that too and, although expensive, it was well worth the cost.

In amongst all this, the jars have to be corralled, sorted, washed and heated, as usual. Again, with two types of jars, two sizes, and two different tops, it’s a challenge to sort them into their individual categories so they cook evenly. Washing and heating is easy once the jars are sorted and cleaned – but the only dish washer in the apartment is me.

Cooking comes next, then filling the jars. With the right funnel and tongs, that’s the best part of the procedure. Seeing the jars fill up, then the pressure canner fill up, is very satisfying. A load is seven quart jars, and takes at least a full day, usually it overflows into the next day.

Once the last jar is loaded and the lid secured, it takes about 20 minutes to bring it up to pressure, and depending on what’s in the jars, from 40 to 90 minutes at pressure; another hour to reduce pressure to normal before the lid can come off, and the jars removed. They’re still boiling so have to be removed with the appropriate tongs and put on something that isn’t cold, like a folded towel, otherwise the jars can crack. These days the regular lids pop when they seal, and it’s a wonderful sound, after all that work. Very satisfying. Wiping the jars and labeling them is all that remains to be done. Then store them where they won’t get too hot or too cold. Freezing is not advised!

For me, the dread has gone from the pressure canner. It’s now my friend.

Since the New Year I have filled 250 jars of winter veggies, almost all quarts, apart from the fruit and ratatouille done in the summer. No problem about food for this year. The jars are all safely stowed in the storage unit, wrapped in the old sleeping bags etc. My “shopping” every week is to bring my week’s allocation of full jars to the apartment and return the empties. My food budget is approximately a quarter of what it would be if I bought it in the store, and I know it has no preservatives, sweeteners or salt. There is no way I could afford to eat like this if someone else prepared it.

Now all that remains is to eat them. Doing each individual fruit or veggie separately gives complete freedom how to use it. The fruit can be used individually, put in pies, in cakes or cookies, or with ice cream for dessert. Or they can be mixed together for compotes etc. And I’ve come up with a new idea for the veggies: take one jar of each type, empty them all into a big bowl, stir them around thoroughly, and put them back into the jars. Re-process them. When you open a jar, add herbs or spices to taste, and maybe some yogurt and/or beans or grated cheese, and, Bingo, you have soup ready to eat from the jar. With a piece of crusty bread, it solves the problem of what to have for lunch or dinner.

Thank you, Dave and Becky, and everyone at Shaul’s farm for giving me so many years of happiness, memories and health!