Canning For Dummies

The one thing about gardening that nobody mentioned to me is that I will have a ton of veggies and no idea what to do with them all. I didn’t want to waste food, so I had no choice but to freeze some, give some away, and the rest I had to can.

Beans, Beans, and more Beans.
Beans, Beans, and more Beans.

Since I have never canned anything before I had to do what my grandma’s grandma’s grandma used to do… look it up on the internet. I found this amazing site Food in Jars which gave me a crash course on what to do.

So I headed to the store to buy mason jars, salt, vinegar, and everything else I needed to make pickled beans. I did not have any of the other fancy canning tools that Food In Jars suggested, but I figured I would make do with what I have.

Once I got home I came to the realization that my biggest pot will hold just enough water to cover my jars. This made me nervous because, according to the internet, the water is supposed to be 1 inch higher than the jar in order to sterilize them properly. I didn’t want to die from botulism, but figured I would try to sterilizing the jars anyways. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Right?

Beans, Brine, and Boiling Water.
Beans, Brine, and Boiling Water.

The pot size resulted in massive overflow of boiling water. Water was spilling onto the burner, into the burner pan, and then onto the floor. There is probably still a puddle under my oven and I am actually really surprised I did not get burned. I attempted to replace the spilt water and turn down the burner if the boiling got out of control, but this canning thing was turning into a really big mess. Not a good start.

While I was dealing with the out-of-control sterilization process, I was also making a brine (vinegar, salt, and water) and prepping the beans. The most important thing to canning is keeping the jars hot. After 15 minutes of sterilizing (I did longer than 10 minutes because of the water issues). I made an attempt to get my hot jars out of the pot without burning myself, then put the jars upside down on a towel on the counter.

Keep the Jars Warm!
Keep the Jars Warm!

One jar at a time, I would fill them with beans, dill, and crushed red pepper, then top the jars off with the brine and put the seal and the lid on. OK that wasn’t so bad. Things were running smoothly for about two jars, until I ran out of brine. I quickly whipped up another batch. At this point it seemed like a lot of work because I only had enough beans to make four jars and a lot of leftover brine.

Once the jars were filled, I had to put them back in the boiling water for another 10 minutes. In order to do this, I dropped the jars in the pot and ran away so I wouldn’t get burned by the overflowing water.

Run away...
Run Away…

After the jars were done I let them cool overnight. I felt pretty nervous because this whole canning thing felt like a giant disaster and I was scared that my cans wouldn’t seal properly. About 20 minutes later I heard the first ping which means the seals are forming. Thank goodness!

I was a bit traumatized after my first canning experience, but thankful that the cans were sealed and I was injury free. I did try it again a few weeks later. It was still a bit stressful when it came to my pot size, but for the most part I think I’m getting the hang of it. Now I just have to wait till all the supplies go on sale and this canning business will go much smoother…. Hopefully.

High Five! I did it without burning myself!
High Five! I did it without burning myself!

Here is the recipe I used: Pickled Green Beans

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