You CAN have fun canning!

September 1, 2009 in Food Science, In the Kitchen

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I had the most brilliant Sunday at the Canning-Across-America Canvolution event with a group of people who were so fantastic and so interesting I didn’t want to leave.

But we worked so hard canning so many things and the kitchen was such a BEAST that by the time that things were winding down, I was utterly wiped, and starved, and freaked out because I had a long ride ahead of me and I still had to milk the goats! All this conspired to make me zombie-like at the end of the day and totally forget to go back into the restaurant and thank everyone for coming and get emails etc.

Canvolution: stove!

Lets back up and start from the beginning as I share snapshots and a report from the day.

Canvolution: tools

As you know from this post (“Join the Canvolution!“), the objective for the day was to share canning skills with others. This was done in Somerville but also across the US as the meme of the Canvolution spread like wildfire!

I think that you can simply switch out food preservation for “canning” throughout because actually the topics were not just about canning. Other than my demo on pressure canning, we had Alex who spoke on lactofermentation. You can see the lacto-fire in his eyes! Reminded me of Sandor Katz who is ablaze with the lactofermentation affliction.

Alex blogs at FeedMeLikeYouMeanIt on topics of wholesome nutrition as well as lactofermentation. I have only taken a tiny peek at his blog but plan on poking around more!

Canvolution: Lindsey

Linsey, the woman who made this event possible with her amazing hard work, organization, and positive attitude, did an extremely thorough overview, demo and hands on experience for all 20 in attendance (max number!) of boiling water bath canning. She just blogged about it in her post “The Can-o-rama Cantacular! We Can, and We Did!“.

She had roasted plum tomatoes to loosen the skins (better than blanching them!!) as well as some garlic.

Canvolution: prep

Canvolution: garlic for pickles

The structure of the day was adapted to deal with the time taken up by actual canning in the hot water. This meant that we started with some great canned vinegar dill pickles.

We cut organic pickling cucumbers into quarters or smaller and then in groups of 5, people went into the commercial kitchen with Linsey and stuffed the cucumbers into hot jars.

Canvolution: slicing cukes

We then filled the jars with hot dill brine, sealed the jars, and then Lindsey put the jars into the hot water to process them.

Canvolution: jars

Canvolution: making pickles

Canvolution: making pickles

Canvolution: making pickles

Canvolution: making pickles

Canvolution: making pickles

Canvolution: making pickles

Canvolution: lids

While the pickles were doing their thing, people got to work skinning the plum tomatoes that Linsey had roasted before we all got there, early in the morning!

Did I mention that Lindsey is amazing? This would not have gone off so well without her hard work.

Canvolution: prep

Canvolution: prep

The skinless tomatoes were then crushed and put on to simmer and reduce a bit. Linsey added salt, garlic, ad lemon juice as she explained to the group about how the pH, even for tomatoes, must be at or below 4.6 to be able to use the boiling water bath method. (The low pH inhibits growth of nasty bugs!)

Canvolution: prep

Next came the crushing of an impressing amount of blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. Linsey must have bought out all the farmer’s markets in a 100 mile radius!

Canvolution: masher

Canvolution: black berries

Canvolution: raspberries

Canvolution: crushing berries

Canvolution: crushing berries

Canvolution: crushing berries

Mixed in between all of this crushing and simmering and jarring Alex held forth on lactofermentation and got everyone shredding cabbage, salting it, and crushing it into pint jars to take home with them.

Canvolution: starts!

I think a lot of people learned some new principles especially regarding the beneficial bacteria in ferments and how store bought pasteurized pickles are dead, not living like the sauerkraut everyone was making.

Somewhere in there, I shared (without really doing anything formal) some of the foods I have been dehydrating to show people just a hint of what they might be able to do in terms of dehydrating foods.

Excalibur dehydrators should have paid me for the day cuz I have a feeling a few people might be checking out their goods after Sunday!

Canvolution: pressure canner

I did a demo on the pressure canning with just jars filled with water. I brought some sample jars with food but we didn’t can anything because it takes so very long by this method that it wasn’t practical to can actual food. People got to see how the pressure canner is constructed and also how it behaves as its being used. They learned about the importance of venting the canner for 10 minutes before putting the regulator on and then how to handle the very hot canner when its time to let it cool.

I brought two jars of colored water that I had canned to let people open them to see how much of a seal forms and also how much of a vacuum develops inside.

All the while, berries were simmering on the hot beast of a stove in the kitchen. Linsey showed people how to watch for the proper amount of time to boil the berries (she was using no pectin) so that the syrup was just right for proper gelling of the jams!

At this point, my brain begins to fuzz over! I had the opportunity to chat with such interesting people about local and sustainable foods, canning, fermentation, cheese making, our goats and chickens, homesteading, renewable power, finding ways to afford solar panels, and dehydrating food. What a day!

I know that Linsey and others chatted a bit, after I had to leave, about future events. I look forward to them and getting to know everyone better!

I will let you know when I hear about more events and if you live in the New England region, try to make it!