My first experience with canning was courtesy of my dear, sweet mother, who pressed me into service at a young age. She put me to work peeling peaches and tomatoes in the brutal August heat, hovering over a sink full of steaming fruit in our steaming kitchen; I couldn’t help but be swimming in sweat by the time we were finished. Mom handled the important stuff herself, washing the jars, sterilizing the lids, loading and keeping an eye on the pressure canner. I was basically her prep cook, which was the extent of my involvement in this mysterious process until fairly recently.
I spent last summer reading up on preserving, and at the tail end of the season, I decided I was finally ready to take the plunge and try it out for myself. A quick call home revealed that Mom had given away her canner when the family moved a few years back (sacrilege!), so hand-me-downs were out of the question this time around; Amazon, as it always does, did the trick instead. My shiny new toy arrived promptly, and sat, unopened, in my hallway, until several weeks ago, when a friend and I wound up with fifty pounds of tomatoes to process.
I’d been begging my mother to come up to New York for some hand-holding—the thought of my very first grown-up attempt at canning being a solo one left me feeling more like an insecure teenager than a capable adult—but she couldn’t get away. The specter of failure (and food poisoning) dominated my overactive imagination.
To ward off my impending panic, she graciously made herself available for phone consultations, even in the midst of a dinner party. Only four or five calls later, we were in business.
The jars were a lot prettier before they were processed—after they came out of the canner, the tomatoes and the liquid had separated, and the colors weren’t as vibrant as what you see above. We didn’t have a single casualty, though. No cracks, no broken glass, just eighteen quarts of tomatoes for the two of us to use throughout the winter. And now that I have a handle on the procedure, I’m stockpiling ideas and shopping around for cheap Ball jars in anticipation of the next go-round.
(Another member of my household just might be looking forward to it as well.)
**Thanks to Elizabeth for loaning her photos!