From Pipi’s Pasture: The canning jars
August 28, 2015
Last week when I picked green beans from our garden next to Pipi's Pasture, I was reminded of the bushels of green beans we kids used to pick out of our huge garden at the ranch when we were growing up. And then I remembered canning season.
I never really cared much for canning season, mostly because the kitchen was messy and hot, but canning was necessary because we depended on the produce to get us through the winter.
Canning season started as soon as the garden vegetables were ready, usually with peas, and continued the rest of the summer and into fall. The busiest time was early fall when our parents went to Grand Junction to purchase peaches and tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables that needed a longer growing season.
By winter, the jars of fruits, vegetables, meats, jellies and pickles filled the basement shelves — hundreds of jars in all. The basement was cool enough for keeping canned goods yet not cold enough to freeze.
Mom knew how to prevent getting botulism in the jars and how to avoid food spoilage so every effort was made to sterilize everything and to properly process the foods. It all started with the jars.
Canning jars were expensive so we saved them from year to year. We saved other jars from "boughten" foods, such as mayonnaise, too, as long as standard-sized lids and rings would fit them. Each time we emptied a jar of produce during the winter, we washed the jar and took it back to the basement.
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So when canning season started, we went to the basement and brought up jars. Since our kitchen was small, we brought up a few at a time, enough for each batch of whatever was being canned. Then we inspected the jars for cracks. We ran our fingers around the jar rims, feeling for chips. A chip meant that the jar would likely not seal and so it was tossed out.
Then we washed the jars in warm, soapy water. If the used lids were not put back on the jars before storing them in the basement, we likely had to clean out cobwebs before washing. We rinsed the jars thoroughly and sterilized them in a pot of boiling water. I can remember taking the jars out of the water with tongs or a big fork, anything that would prevent our hands from getting burned in the hot water. The jars were turned, upside down, on a clean kitchen towel.
After being sterilized, the jars were ready to be filled with produce. They were sealed with hot lids, which were held on with rings. Then the jars were ready for whatever method was recommended — hot water bath or pressure cooker.
Next week: More canning season memories.