Yesterday's canning adventure was a sure success. It was a full day's worth of work, but totally worth it. I will post about the process here, but the actual recipes are posted on Lucy's Kitchen. I started the day by getting all my jars organized and ready. Some were very dirty and old, so I soaked them in hot soapy water overnight in the laundry room. Then, I washed all the jars in the dishwasher and washed the rings and snaps in hot soapy water in the sink.
We set up our canning station something like this. On the right, the very large pot is the water canner. On the front the left, the jars are placed upside in hot water as they need to be hot when being filled. On the back left burner, the snap lids are in a pot of water, also to be hot when being filled. In the large pot on the counter is the pot with the "stuff" in it. The stuff needs to be hot when being filled as well, so I only took it off the burner at the last minute before filling the jars, and put it back on if there were any pauses in filling the jars. Although this is how we originally set up the station, we ended up switching it around and doing it backwards because it worked better considering I am left handed (seriously - it gets in the way). The last picture in this section shows our final set up.
The fabulous dude has neoprene gloves that he uses for hunting. Finally, something about his hunting hobby has come in handy (just kidding). This is a thick, waterproof material, which allows him to put his hands right into the hot water and handle the hot jars, lids and so on. They are much more heat resistant than oven mitts and clearly, a little less awkward. And since they are camo, no one could even see his hands.
The dude would reach into the pot and get a hot jar, he would set it on a cutting board on the counter where I would use a glass measuring cup to pour the recipe into the jar. I filled them to the bottom of the neck, in order to leave enough head space. Then, I wiped the rims with a clean, damp cloth in case any of the food got on the ring (this is important as food on the rim will inhibit sealing and can cause rust). FD then would get a snap lip from the pot of hot water, and twist a ring on it. In the pictures, it's actually my hands in those wicked awesome camo gloves, since I did the onions while he was gone. You will notice that, aside from my hands, I am in zero of the photos from our canning day. There is a reason. :D Sorry the photos are a mishmash of different foods, I just snapped photos when I could.
Then, when the jars were filled and closed, he placed them in the water canner, which was filled with water that had been heating on the stove (almost to a boil). The canner we have is big enough to fit 7 quart sized jars, but can also accommodate smaller jars, like the ones we were working with. When the canner was full, we lowered the rack into the pot, so that all jars were immersed at least 2-3 inches in water. If necessary, we added more hot water to the pot. We placed the lid on the canner and waited for it to boil. Once boiling, we set the timer for the amount of time specified in the recipe (usually 5 or 10 minutes). Once that time was up, he reached in this his magic gloves, pulled the rack out and carried the jars, one by one, over to the card table that was covered in towels to cool. As they cooled, we celebrated each POP we heard as each and every single jar sealed!
As the jars cool, press down on the lids to test for a seal. If they do not move or make a sound, they are sealed but if they still flex up and down, they have not sealed. If, by chance, any of your jars do not seal, you should put them in the fridge and use the contents immediately. Otherwise, sealed jars can be stored in a cool, dark place for a year or two (perhaps even more?) At the end of the day, we ended up with 42 jars of yummy goodness!
If you are interested in canning, I hope that this post helped. If there is anything that still remains unclear, that I forget to explain or describe, please tell me and I'll be sure to update the post!