Saturday, August 13, 2011

I taught someone (Karen) how to can (and we canned my mother's brandied peaches)

Never Done: I taught someone (Karen) how to can (and we canned my mother's recipe for brandied peaches)

One of the things Karen suggested we might do as a never done activity is canning. She had a big box full of transparent apples (that grow ripe in July! July!, as the fruit farmer told us the other day) that she wanted to turn into applesauce. And she'd never canned before. I, however, grew up canning from a very young age. My mother loved to can -- jelly, jam, applesauce, roasted tomato sauce, and her very special brandied peaches. After initially telling Karen that wasn't a good never done activity, it occurred to me that I have never taught someone to can, and that it was actually a perfect never done activity.

She had just done a gorgeous job teaching me how to put in a zipper (and sew the hard parts of a skirt) so I wanted to do as good a job with the canning. The thing is -- canning up a bunch of peaches is WAY easier than sewing a skirt. At least it is if you 1) are teaching an already excellent cook, and 2) are using time as one measure of difficulty. (It took much of two days to make a skirt, and it took only a couple of hours to can up some peaches.) On the other hand, canning has high stakes. The whole point of canning is to prevent bacteria from growing in your food. To that end, you sterilize your canning jars in boiling water for 10 minutes, and your aluminum lids and rings for five. You don't touch anything with your hands -- but use tongs instead. You leave a 1/2-inch gap between the top of whatever you're canning and the top of the jar, so that as the food cools down, there's some air in there to help create the vacuum that will create the seal that will prevent botulism from getting in there and growing. High stakes! But actually really quite easy.

I think I did a good job teaching her. I tried to explain what we were going to do in advance, and why. And I let her do everything herself, instead of me showing her, until the very end, when I wanted to show her how to put the lid on without touching it (to prevent germs) and also how tight to tighten it. And when we ran out of brandy (because we hadn't bought enough) I consulted with her and we put Grand Marnier into a few jars, which will probably taste excellent.
She's in the kitchen right now canning applesauce, so I'll find out pretty quickly how well I actually did. In the meantime, the peaches look gorgeous:

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