Fri June 29, 2012
Yes, I Can… Vegetables
Canning season has come early this year. Pee Paw’s garden is overproducing, Syl says. She picks and stems the beans; I own the canner. We share the lids, rings and the jars.
This all began last year when we decided to eat more local and healthy. I invested $99 in a pressure canner and attended a canning clinic at Home Extension.
“Follow the rules,” the agent advised. “Treat this like a science project,” which meant scalding the jars, sterilizing the lids, discarding rusty rings.
“Botulism can kill you. You must process properly to kill the varmints inside the jar.”
Varmints? That sounded scary, but not so much as the canner looked with its vents, locks and gauge – taunting me to come closer.
My mother did not can. Like most women of her day, she kicked all semblances of home canning to the curb with the warning that it’s old-fashioned and dangerous. The canner can explode. Improper seals could breed botulism, a slow death by poisoning. Her grandmother died after eating home-canned corn. Enough said.
But for me and many like me, risk-taking pressure canners are a new frontier.
I read the pressure canner instructions with trepidation.
Boil the sealed jars in the canner with lid closed until steam, like white smoke announcing a new pope at the Vatican, swirls out for 10 minutes. Place the petcock over the vent. Wait until the pressure reaches 11 pounds. Process for 25 minutes. Don’t take calls, knit, text or watch TV. Watch the canner. Monitor the gauge.
When the process is done, place the hot jars on a clean towel and cover them with another towel to prevent jars from breaking in a cool draft – as if anything vaguely cool could exist in this hot kitchen.
Pressure canning green beans takes three hours, 26 minutes per jar, not to mention the cost of energy and supplies. This is a pricey undertaking, even with freebie.
It was then that I noticed the green bean smell inside the canner. Don’t ask me the physics, but the pressure bath smells of green beans, a musky old-time odor I hadn’t encountered since dining years ago at the Green Parrot Cafe in Rochester, MN, where Mother scheduled an annual physical at the Mayo Clinic. “Take No Chances” should have been her middle name. Though she had no known ailments, every June, we kids tagged along to “Mayo’s” for three days of utter boredom in the waiting room.
The Green Parrot, our kitchen away from home, served home-cooked green beans with plated entrees, also boring. The service wasn’t particularly fast either. After lunch, we’d return to Mayo to draw pictures, read or watch people while waiting for Mother’s appointments to check not for a miracle cure, but a blessing that nothing was wrong in the first place.
Why did my mother insist on Mayo? They’re the best, she’d say, the same reason I sit by my pressure canner.
Patience = quality. I am my mother’s daughter.