Just Can It!

As a child, I was rarely, if ever, aware of heat. Stand with my back to a wood stove too long in the winter, and sure, I’d realize it was hot.

Or, sneak in another room while my grandma wasn’t looking and try to light one of the matches she told me not to play with–which I only did once, by the way–and sure, I’d know hot.

Or, once again, in defiance of grandma’s commands, touch the iron skillet that was full of biscuits just out of the oven. Yeah, I felt the heat; or, rather in that case, the burn. And again, I only did that once. Have a faint scar to prove it.

But since I grew up in Georgia, hot is the status quo. So, other than those few brushes with almost or actually being burned, I never really noticed the heat.

Except for when it was blackberry season. We’d traipse up and down the Canton Road with grandma picking blackberries. We’d come back to the house with no air conditioner, and in June she’d start up the stove. And she’d boil and boil and boil til the whole house was like a steam bath.

Then, we’d have jars and jars of blackberry jam for the fall. Nothing better on biscuits!

I’d love to say that grandma taught me how to can. Actually, I’d love to say that both my grandmas taught me how to can, because my father’s mother was also a canner. (Course everyone in the South was back then.) But as it was, I didn’t learn canning from either of them. (Although they both taught me gardening and sewing.)

Nope, I learned to can from the bottom of a Mason jar box.

It started three years ago with a bumper crop of jalapeños and green bell peppers. There were so many off the six plants I’d planted that year that it seemed we’d never eat them in a lifetime.

During the surplus, my husband reminded me that we had a water boil canner he’d bought at an estate sale in the garage collecting dust. So, I searched it out, cleaned it up, bought some jars, followed the recipe on the bottom of the box, and made more than two dozen jars of pepper jelly.

Turned out pretty good, even if I do say so myself. And, so, I was hooked.

Later that year, I tackled fig preserves, armed with a gingered orange fig preserve recipe from one friend and 10 pounds of figs from another. No success, as it was as thick as tar.

But, that little mess up didn’t set me back one bit. In fact, it only got me excited about more canning. At Christmas, I got a canning kit with a few helpful utensils and The Complete Book of Home Preserving, and the next year, I canned hot dog and Jerusalem artichoke relishes, cranberry mustard, and fig preserves–which won second place at the Madison County Fair. (No more tar!)

Last year, I expanded my repertoire to include traditional and verde salsas, peach preserves, and a plum freezer jam.

This year’s rain kept me from having my own garden, but our church has had a great community garden with a surprising number of peppers. So, this week my son helped me can mild green and hot red pepper jellies as well as a “Sun Rising” jelly, which has a tad of the red in the green. 20130907-224309.jpgAnd, thanks to Lauren Devine and Judi Kingry’s amazing book, we also cooked up what I like to call Hobnobbin’ Gold, which is a version of their Habanero Gold recipe with a milder, albeit just as beautiful, hot red pepper. 20130907-224452.jpgMadison County Fair, here we come!

BTW, for those of you who follow me regularly, after I made my mid-year resolution to keep up with my blog everyday, I got mighty silent. And, well, here it is, early September, and all I can say is…so much for resolutions, both New Year’s and mid-year’s. But thankfully, my blog is still here, I am still here, and, as always, I’ve been ever-busy if mighty quiet!

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