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I Hate Canning... But I do it Anyway

Preserving the summer to enjoy all year is so worth it, but so hard

By Kathryn WickerPublished 2 years ago 6 min read
Top Story - August 2022
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Picture by K. Wicker of plum jam

I hate canning. And it isn't because I hate to cook - I like to cook. But, every year there are days of canning I absolutely dread and I get surly about doing them.

Let me take you on a journey into last Thursday. So my 4 generation family pile into the car at 6:45 am to drive all the way over to the Corn Wagon in Lancaster County which takes 45 minutes. It is a beautiful drive. Farmlands, the small town of Columbia, PA, a beautiful blue sky and four generations loaded into one car singing Disney songs. We drove over there because I had picked up a bushel of Roma tomatoes and ½ bushel of jalapeños from Nolts in Washington Township on Thursday - but we still needed green peppers and I wanted corn. So, it is good we headed to the Corn Wagon for corn because that is their bread and butter. They pull wagons directly from the corn fields AS THEY PICK IT! It is the freshest corn in the area. And it is an absolute mad house as everyone grabs corn and stuffs ears of sweetest smelling corn into bags or boxes or duffels. We brought home 10 dozen.

Don’t think the trip was the end of it. I still had my tomato paste going in the oven at 200 degrees at home trying to get the paste from the still runny sauce (a bushel gave me about 10 pints done in 20 half-pints). I still had to get that into jars but now also had to deal with what we had in our dining room. We had to take our 1 bushel of tomatoes, 35 green peppers, ½ bushel of jalapeño peppers and 10 pounds of onions and make it into two of our most favorite items: Rotel tomatoes and Zesty salsa (both from approved sources). We have at least 55 jars of both Rotel and Zesty at the end of the season so we can get through the next year and still have a bit leftover for the next. The peeling of an entire bushel of tomatoes to get the Rotel tomatoes and salsa? Endless. Backbreaking. HORRIBLE!

Have you peeled tomatoes? You start by boiling water and then core the tomatoes and put a small x on the bottom of each tomato. Then you boil each of the billion tomatoes (I exaggerate) for about 2 minutes and put them in cold water. Then you have to peel the skin off. Next comes the chopping part. Do you know how many tomatoes are in a bushel? And they were all Roma tomatoes because they have the most meat with the least amount of seeds.There are also more Roma tomatoes in a bushel because they are smaller.

By Rodrigo dos Reis on Unsplash

My daughter did the jalapeños. And we didn’t just use them in the canning because you only need a bit over a peck to do 2 batches of salsa and per Rotel batch you only need 8 peppers. But we seed each of them and then again the chopping. The rest my daughter seeded and ran through the food processor on thin slices so we could dehydrate them - you can use dehydrated jalapeño peppers in spice blends and in casseroles - we try to have a 5 gallon food safe gallon bucket sealed with a gamma lid.

By Phillip Larking on Unsplash

We have a system. We have 5 stainless steel pots set up so we can do each salsa batch individually, although since the Rotel cooks for over 45 minutes - I did put all 3 batches (measured exactly) into the huge stock pot. But we did all the tomatoes first, because they determined how many batches we could make. Then my daughter did the jalapeños. I did the onions, peppers, cilantro and garlic while Taylor took care of her daughter.

But, the salsa and Rotel are STILL not done at the tomatoes and jalapeños. We have a system. After the hot peppers, I do green peppers and onions chopped for both the salsa and the Rotel tomatoes although different sizes. We have 5 stainless steel pots set up so we can do each salsa batch individually, although since the Rotel cooks for over 45 minutes - I did put all 3 batches (measured exactly) into the huge stock pot. But we did all the tomatoes first, because they determined how many batches we could make. Then Taylor did the jalapeños. I did the onions, peppers, cilantro and garlic while Taylor took care of her daughter. And I'm always the one that fills the jars and wipes the rims and then uses the water canner for the exact time suggested in each recipe. I think that is my job because my children were so young when they started to help me.

Photo by K Wicker of Rotel tomatoes in the back and Zesty salsa in the front.

And every year I do it so I can make sure my family has jams, sauces, stocks, beans and piles of tomato products on the shelf. And I don’t hate doing all of it, but it is a job. By the end of summer I will have my stock of home canned jars back to over 1,000 pints, quarts and half-pints again. You probably wonder why I can if I HATE doing it? Everyone assumes I love it because I like to cook and because I do so much of it. Cooking doesn’t take from 8 am until 10:15 like a bad day of canning can do. And just because I put my summer food in jars does not mean it is my favorite thing or even on my list of top 100 favorite things to do. But I do it every summer to make sure I have about 2 years of all of our favorite foods. And I ask myself why each year.

Until it is all done. And then staring at my full shelves gives me pleasure. And using all of the items through the year and knowing that they are made with love, care and no bugs or insects per can (the USDA allows so many insect parts in each canned item). I also like using the lowest to no sugar or salt recipes that I can find. And as a plant-based vegan having those items on the shelf to use at the end of a long day teaching during the school year?... It is absolutely priceless. And home canned food saves us money compared to the cost at the store - I did the math for years and that was before the rising cost of food since COVID. I should figure it out again, but I already know it is cheaper this way. Also it is easier on the environment because you reuse the jars and bands each year (not the lids - those cannot be used again). Also I am using local foods and supporting the local farmers when I do this.

Picture by K Wicker at the end of last summer (this year is not done yet)

But on that day that had us on the road at 6:45 to get the items from the farm fresh, that day didn't end until the last batch of salsa came out of the canner at 10:15 pm. And remember the 10 dozen ears of corn? That is what I woke up to on Saturday. I roasted the corn on the cob, froze or dehydrated all of it and used the corn cobs to make Roasted Corn Cob stock that I use for soup, rice and to add extra nutrition to my beans when I make them. That day only went from 8 am to 8 pm. And another batch of Roasted Corn Cob stock was the next day. It is such hard work and my day job is teaching 8th graders so I would think that this could be considered easier than that.

I hate canning, and yet I know that next year I'm going to make sure I have 1000 jars on my shelves by the end of summer so my family has great food, done safely and used in so many ways throughout the year. Even if I hate the process at times - I love the results.

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About the Creator

Kathryn Wicker

I write, I read, I cook, I preserve, I strive to be my best at them all. But, writing, cooking and preserving are all works in progress - just like life. I've got the reading down pat except for the lack of time.

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Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

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Comments (9)

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  • Mark Graham8 months ago

    Great work. I helped my mom with canning tomatoes, jelly and with my one aunt Apple butter. To me it was fun especially with the tomatoes and the apple butter. Usually I got the last bit of tomatoes for a lunch with a piece of bread that would not be enough for a whole or even half jar. Making apple butter was fun for I got to stir the big pot most of the time from the apple sauce to when they added the other fixings.

  • Gina B.about a year ago

    What’s your favorite item you’ve used so far from your summer canning? I agree that the fully stocked shelves are quite rewarding.

  • Cautodesk Malekddujxabout a year ago

    I like canned, yellow peach flavor better

  • keshawn kodyabout a year ago

    Very well written

  • Carri Sawinabout a year ago

    Looks great.

  • Powanda Sowdenabout a year ago

    Looks great

  • Penny Goblin2 years ago

    I love canning until I'm elbow-deep in my second bucket of tomatoes. One lifesaver tip if you have a freezer (with some room in it): you can remove tomato skins by freezing them! Just put 'em in a bag, freeze, defrost. The skin slips right off.

  • Gina B.2 years ago

    Looks so yummy!

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