Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Jarring Experience

Why do we call it canning and not jarring? (1)

My feet, back and forearms hurt! It has been a busy week in the kitchen. I have canned every day since Tuesday. This is my first attempt at canning. (2) I got the bug to learn last year, but with a new baby that was NOT a realistic option. Over the years, I have made a lot of freezer jam, but heat canning always seemed like some scary process that could end in hospitalization from botulism. This year I decided it was time to learn to can! So I purchased 24 pounds of peaches, 24 pounds of pears and the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. Once I started, I got hooked. I was surprised that canning is not as difficult as I thought it would be. Let me clarify- it takes a LOT of time, but once you understand the science, the process is rather simple. Many recipes use similar techniques and tools and that is why I chose to do most of my canning in one week. My friend Elizabeth, however, has spent the year canning one item each month based on what produce is in season that month. Now that I have a newfound confidence in canning, I think that next year, I too will take on a year-long canning challenge. For now, I am enjoying the late summer/ autumn bounty and canning as much food as I can before we face a long winter with no homegrown produce. Here is what I made this week:

Tuesday - Honey-spiced Peaches
Wednesday – Zesty Peach Barbecue Sauce
Thursday – Pears in Syrup (and a peach pie with my leftover peaches!)
Friday – More Pears in Syrup, but in larger jars
Saturday – My good friend Jen joined me in making Pickled Carrots, our own interpretation of Pickled Roasted Red Peppers, and Summer Squash Pickles
What is next – I plan on pickling cucumbers, green beans and eventually (when the frost threatens to wipe out my crop) green tomatoes… we’ll see how far I get!

Why canning? Why not? Canning goes well with my list of things I am working on… eating healthy, finding “me” time and working on balance (3).

I want to eat healthier, and nothing is better than knowing what is in the food you eat. I do not like commercially processed foods… too much sodium, tons of chemicals and mystery ingredients. (4) I like the taste of organic and garden produce – it has been given time to mature and is picked at its peak, retaining flavor!

I also am in favor of keeping art forms alive. I like the ideas that I am doing the same thing that generations of (mostly?) women have done to keep their families fed year round. I am preserving (5) a part of our history. I do not want to join the masses of people who let others decide what goes on the dinner plate. We are a society of consumers. If we want something, we run to our local mega-store and buy it. Because of global imports, we can get fresh (6) off-season vegetables and fruit year round; and when we can not get them fresh we buy canned vegetables chocked full of sodium and fruit packed in syrup or even worse – splenda or aspartame.

And of course, I love trying new things and proving I can do it…I like feeling a sense of accomplishment. It is great to step back at the end of the day and enjoy the fruits (7) of my labor! It is quite fun to listen to the lids “pop,” assuring that your produce is happily sealed in its new jar.

Hooray for trying something new and enjoying it!


(1)   This question came from my friend Kris. I did not have an answer. I am sure if I googled it there would be all kinds of answers, but I have been too busy getting my daily steam facial to look into it further. If you know, feel free to comment. While you are at it will you please tell us why we yell “charge” at baseball games?
(2)   Technically that is not true. I once helped my mom can apricots when I was in middle school and last month I filled two pickle jars when my friend Elizabeth was canning.
(3)   You can not sit in front of the computer when it you are canning!
(4)   I am sure I will get around to stepping up on my soapbox and blogging about this topic...
(5)   Pun intended
(6)   It may be “fresh.” But it is often bland from spending excessive amounts of time in transit
(7)   Seriously, who knew there were so many possibilities for canning puns?

Peeled peaches ready to be canned.


Honey-spiced Peaches in the canner.


Zesty Peach Barbecue Sauce

Friday, September 17, 2010

On Turning 31

I never understood why people were so freaked out about turning 30. It is just a number. A few weeks before my 30th birthday I sat down and took an inventory of my life and my feelings on entering a new decade… nothing… I could not see what all the fuss was about. When my birthday rolled around I felt the same. As far as I was concerned 30 felt the same as 27, 28, 29… I thought maybe the only change I would notice was that people would treat me as an adult. Well… that was wishful thinking, but I digress. All in all, 30 was a great year and now I am on the cusp of turning 31. Maybe I am late to the party, but for the last month I have been obsessing about “getting my life in order.” I am turning 31… somehow; it feels more ‘real’ than the novelty of being a 30 year-old. I am torn between wanting a stable, structured life and reverting back to the carefree life of a twenty-something. (1) All that uncertainty and self-reflection was driving me crazy… and making me a little nauseous.  What was all this whining about? I am not ‘that girl.’ (3) If I want to change something, I change it. If I want to learn something, I learn it. I am unlimited. So, I am making a plan. This year I am going to start by tackling five things that I have been putting off for the last 30 years. Here is ‘the list’ of things I want to improve:

  • Keep my house clean and abolish clutter
  • Find balance between home life and work life (2)
  • Make time for ‘me’ a.k.a set aside time for my hobbies
  • Put more effort in to feeding my family healthy food
  • Get more active

Why am I blogging this?

Three reasons:

  • Accountability
    • I struggle with being a perfectionist who is afraid to let others down. If this is out there for everyone to see I will have to at least try to accomplish one of these things. I am too proud to fail.
  • Tracking my progress
    • I have never been good at taking pictures of the things I create. Recently I started cataloging the product of my crafts/cooking in my “domestic goddess in training” photo album on facebook. A lot of what I make I give away and do not get to enjoy after it is finished. It is satisfying to see evidence that you have “done” something.
  • Sharing what I learn
    • Since I started my “domestic goddess in training” album on facebook (3), many of my friends have asked for recipes, how I came up with my ideas, where to find patterns, tips on how to make/do something, etc… I started to realize that there might be people out there who are interested in learning from my attempts.
So as I wrote in my “about me,” this blog is a collection of my thoughts, a log of new things I am learning, & products I find that help me on my quest to be a girl unlimited.

(1)   Okay, so I got married at 22 years-old. I spent the majority of my twenties (happily!!) putting John though seminary, so maybe ‘reverting back to’ is the wrong word choice… perhaps ‘assuming the life of a carefree twenty-something’ would be more accurate?
(2)   Always a challenge when home is where you work
(3)   I recently watched “Julie and Julia” and Julie drove me CRAZY… I am not big on drama!
(4)   In addition to my album, have had a lot of response to my recent posts about cleaning, getting organized, etc...