You know how I said I liked Gettin’ Down to the Roots of things? Well, yesterday I had my first experience with getting to the roots of food preservation. Commonly known as canning. Even though you’re putting it in a jar. I have trouble calling it “canning” because, as far as I know, unless you’re a factory, there are no cans. Why not “jarring”? So, I’ve been calling it “preserving,” but everyone I mention it to inevitably says, “Canning?” *sigh* Yes, canning.
I’ve been thinking about figuring out how to do this because of the ginormous box of vegetables I get from my CSA every week. I pick up my boxes on Thursdays, and I find that every Wednesday I go on a cooking frenzy of sorts to use up the overwhelming amount of vegetables I have not yet managed to eat. I know that you can freeze some vegetables, but all I have is a regular refrigerator-freezer and if I just started stuffing it with the vegetables I haven’t finished, it would be packed in two weeks tops. I was thinking that learning to preserve would be a little better stewardship than baking multiple vegetable-laden casseroles, soups & salads and eating them for the next 4 days straight. You know, spread out the love so that come the end of my vegetable-train, I can still have yummy and good-for-me things to eat without going broke.
If you’ve never preserved anything before, and you start looking at the instructions on line, it kind of knocks the enthusiasm out of you. I wanted to make pickles and salsa. It seems that each different item you want to preserve has different requirements: the amount of acid necessary to make sure you don’t get botulism (encouraging), the length of time you boil the filled jar based on altitude (oh, the details), or the kind of pot you have to use in the case of boiling vinegar for pickling (it seems that non-metal pots are required???, or Teflon lined pots with no scratches in them…do you know ANYONE who has a Teflon lined pot without scratches?? I ended up using a stainless steel saucepan. I figure stainless steel doesn’t react to anything.) The instructions were daunting to say the least. Not to mention the fact that there a billion different recipes for pickles, and testimonies of all kinds of people saying that this recipe is gross, this one makes the pickles mushy, and a myriad of other things, basically, “I will never use this recipe again because __________ .” Insert any reason you like into that blank. Who knew there could be so many different things wrong with pickles?
Oh, and I can’t forget to mention the fact that it took my lovely giant pot three hours to boil. This pot is big enough to cover quart-sized jars standing right side up, and considering the fact that I have an electric stove top, and my only large burner is broken, I’m not really surprised. I expected it to take a while, so I, thankfully, started it when I knew I still had to research pickle and salsa recipes and go to the grocery store.
I will try to spare you all the rest of the minute details; I’m sure you already heard more than you wanted to. I will say that you come up with questions you did not think of while you are in the middle of the most important part, filling the jars, lidding them and then dunking them back in the giant pot of boiling water in order to seal. There’s not really opportunity at that step to call your mom and ask if this is OK, so you just keep going, and hope. Or at least that’s what I did. Only to learn later that it’s probably not OK, and at least 2 of the three jars I completed will have to be refrigerated and eaten like regular refrigerated food. So, I could’ve just stuck my pickles and almost half of my salsa in jars without all of the other rigamarole. However, I wouldn’t have learned anything, and it seems that at least one of my jars of salsa could survive the pantry shelf for a while. We will, of course, find out later…you know, if I don’t get botulism and die.
I actually tasted my salsa before jarring it, and it was pretty good. It looks more like relish, but tastes all right, so I don’t really care what it looks like. I’ll let you know how the pickles taste within the next week or so…gotta let ‘em turn into pickles first.
And now for explaining the title of this particular post: my boyfriend dubbed my pickles, “Connie’s Creek Bottom Pickles” because of how they look. See, you put fresh garlic cloves in the bottom of the jar, then you put the cut cucumbers in, then you pack fresh dill around them and throw in a few peppercorns, followed by pouring the boiling vinegar in. Here is the result:
…hence the title. My boyfriend said it looks like I took a jar, scooped up the creek bed and put a lid on it. Complete with fish, pebbles and seaweed. Lovely. I only hope it tastes good. Here’s a picture of all of my beautiful semi-preserved jars from yesterday…a momentous occasion.