Monday, October 05, 2009

You can can-can too

I have an uncanny ability for biting off more than I can chew. Since July I've been planning on making the next recipe from AVP - which calls for a brand new process for me. Canning. Even before reading the book, canning has been on my list of "things to do this year."

Canning is practically in my blood. I grew up in rural rural rural Pennsylvania. A place where literally moments before dinner my parents would send us out to the backyard to gather ingredients for the evening's salad - lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, beans.... Back then, Thatdad was a canner. Actually, his canning probably went back much further, but my memory doesn't.

I had planned to do my canning at Thatmom's house, because Thatdad had a whole canning setup. Of course, when it came to actually finding the kettle, Thatmom and I were SOL. We checked everywhere we could think of. Unfortunately, Thatparents had moved just months before Thatdad's death, and many of their possessions remained boxed up in the garage. Following Thatdad's death, Thatbrother "organized" the boxes, which means now we can't get at most of them, and have no idea what they contain.

Undaunted as ever, I decided to proceed sans canning equipment. I figured I'd improvise. This was probably my first mistake.

The recipe was supposed to make 6-7 quarts of tomato sauce. Well friends, the recipe LIED. 30 lbs sure seemed like a lot of tomatoes, but what do I know? I'm a beginning canner. Thatboy watched me pureeing the tomatoes and said "You're crazy. Do you own a restaurant I don't know about?" Nothing like a little spousal support. As I pureed, I noticed the beginning of problem number 1. The biggest pot Thatmom had was quickly filling up. I called for reinforcements and Thatboy found me a turkey roaster. Even that got dangerously full.

However after several hours of simmering, it reduced to a much less scary amount - although still far more than 6-7 quarts.

As the sauce finished, I ran into problem number 2. I had grossly underestimated the amount of time the dishwasher would take to sterilize the equipment. So I sat for another hour waiting for it to finish while I started getting concerned about problem number 3. Even without the canning kettle, both Thatmom and I were pretty sure there was a gigantic pot which I could use for the water boiling portion of canning. Like the kettle, giant pot was no where to be found. The only pot I could find tall enough for the quart jars would only hold 2 jars at a time.

Remember how I said there was much more than 6-7 quarts? Well there was over 10 quarts of sauce. Which meant 5 rounds in the water bath. Which would take forever. And it did! From pureeing to finish, it took about 12 hours- and of course, that doesn't include the cooling off period. Maybe Thatboy was right about me being a little crazy.

Family Secret Tomato Sauce (recipe can be found at


  1. There is nothing more rewarding than canning and preserving.....That is a lot of sauce, wow!!!

  2. WOAH that's a ton of sauce! I've never canned anything but I really want to...someday. I'm impressed at your dedication. I think I would just resort to freezing a whole bunch of it.

  3. Funny you should mention canning. I've been gagging to try doing tomato sauce etc. I've done fruit jams and lemon curd, but not tomato sauce yet.

    I was JUST thinking last night when I made some phenomenal meatballs that it was a shame that I had to use commercially canned sauce (time constraints) and how my recipe is soooo much nicer.

    I'm inspired now.

  4. I'm very impressed. I grew up in a canning family and although my sister has taken the plunge I remain intimidated. But your story reminds me that I need to have my mom teach me now while she still can. Because unlike you I think I am too chicken to figure it out on my own.

  5. Oh my! I am speechless, so much work! Those 10 qts will be very precious for sure.

  6. Honestly, my mouth dropped open when I saw that just-about-to-overflow- turkey-roaster-full-of-sauce! Impressive!

  7. Haha, that's seriously overflowing!!! I've canned lots of fruit before, but I haven't been brave enough to try any low acid foods yet. Enjoy your bounty!

  8. Again, laughing out loud! Thatboy's comment about you possibly owning a restaurant he doesn't know about? Yeah, Jim seems to think I have a second job working in a sweatshop as he can't come up with any other explanation for me waking up before 8am and immediately heading to the sewing machine. hehehe. ;)