Learn about can­ning

Maryland Independent - - Sports - Jamie Drake

Rid­ing horses, fish­ing and camp­ing were all im­por­tant touch­stones from my child­hood, but an­other fond mem­ory is the time I spent with my mom in the kitchen to­ward the end of the sum­mer putting up veg­eta­bles and fruits to en­joy once the grow­ing sea­son ended. We had a large veg­etable gar­den that pro­vided for our din­ners and more, and my mom would find a way to pre­serve the bounty so noth­ing would go to waste.

There was an old ma­hogany book­case about 10 feet long in the base­ment of our house, left there by the pre­vi­ous own­ers when we moved in. It was the per­fect place to store our con­coc­tions. By Septem­ber, the shelves would be teem­ing with ma­son jars of all shapes and sizes, a rain­bow hodge­podge of peach jam, stewed toma­toes and dill pick­les. As win­ter pro­gressed, each jar would get emp­tied, one by one. By the time the first snap beans were twin­ing vines up the poles in the gar­den, the shelf would be bare, rows of gleam­ing glass jars ready to be filled again.

I wasn’t very in­ter­ested in can­ning as a young adult. Ce­real or soup was a per­fectly ac­cept­able din­ner back then, maybe a cold beer to round things out nu­tri­tion­ally. But when I was preg­nant with our first child, the nest­ing in­stinct took ahold of me. All of a sud­den I was struck with the urge to start fill­ing our china cab­i­net with jars of food cre­ated with my own hands.

This foray into can­ning started with a wa­ter bath can­ner, jar lifter and a copy of the Ball Blue Book. I read the book cover to cover and watched a few how-to videos on­line. I thought I was ready. But lit­tle did I know how hard it would be to mea­sure su­gar, time the jars ster­il­iz­ing in boil­ing wa­ter and cut open a pouch of pectin and pour it at the ex­act right mo­ment (while con­tin­u­ously stir­ring) all by my­self. So I re­cruited some friends to help and we’ve been get­ting to­gether to can ev­ery sum­mer for the past decade.

I still have the orig­i­nal wa­ter bath can­ner from that first sum­mer of can­ning, but since then have added an ex­tra-large Dutch oven, the in­dis­pens­able mag­netic lid wand (two are bet­ter than one be­cause you need a backup in case you mis­place the first) and the most amaz­ing food strainer rec­om­mended to me by a lo­cal Amish fam­ily. These items, while not manda­tory, make the process a whole lot eas­ier and more pleas­ant.

My friends and I are all old pros at can­ning now. We’ve taught friends, sis­ters, even 4-H groups the del­i­cate art of mak­ing the per­fect straw­berry jam. Each of us has a few blue rib­bons from the county fair to prove our ex­per­tise. Last year, my friend’s daugh­ter won the grand cham­pion rib­bon in the ju­nior di­vi­sion.

The up­com­ing La­bor Day week­end is the per­fect time to get started or reac­quainted with can­ning. It’s get­ting to­ward the end of the sum­mer and farm­ers with

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