Canning is Awesome. That’s All There Is To It.

By on 27 July, 2012 in Cooking, Food, Sarah Churchman with 0 Comments

Last summer, I tried my hand at canning for the first time and I was really quite pleased with the results. I had 6 jars of homemade watermelon rind pickle, which I gave to my dad for Father’s Day.

So with a successful canning attempt under my belt, I thought I would expand my repertoire this year. I made peach preserves using fresh Chilton County peaches and a recipe from a 1928 cookbook (10 lbs. of peaches, 10 lbs. of sugar) and the other weekend, I canned peppers.

I had been collecting jalapenos, Serranos, chilies and cowhorns from my garden for a few weeks and they were starting to pile up. I didn’t want them to go to waste and I love pickled jalapeno slices on lots of stuff, so I decided to make my own!

Now, while I had a fair amount of various peppers (my neighbor even contributed a few), I didn’t think I had enough to warrant all the “work” of canning. So I headed to the Montgomery Curb Market on Madison Ave.

If you’ve never been down to the Curb Market … well, shame on you! It’s so awesome. They have all sorts of fabulous veggies, fruits, herbs, and berries (among other things). Some vendors are strictly organic and others aren’t, but unlike out at the State Farmer’s Market, the vast majority of the produce is local and sold by local folks. It’s open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, from 5:00 a.m. – noon. And while the vendors all seem to provide bags, I always like to bust out one of my “green bags” I use at the grocery store and make myself as much of a dirty hippie as possible. Yay environment! I left the Curb Market with some wonderfully huge organic jalapenos and normal banana peppers (I like those on my sandwiches!).

Upon returning home, I did a little “canning peppers” online research, found a recipe I could live, with and started the process.

First: We need to have a little talk. So all the recipes are saying things like “Make sure to wear gloves when handling peppers” and blah blah blah. I’m thinking to myself, “Amateurs. Gloves? I don’t need no stinking gloves…”

Normally, this is true. But when you are cleaning, handling, slicing, scooping, and stuffing about 7 pounds of peppers, you should wear gloves. I know what you’re thinking: “I hate wearing gloves when I cook. I have no dexterity.” This is one instance where compromised dexterity is not an excuse. If you don’t want to sit on your couch for the rest of the night with your hands SCREAMING at you and you can’t do anything but wash them with Murphy’s Oil Soap (which works by the way) and pray you don’t forget and rub your eye (or if you’re a man use the facilities with no “buffer” … think about it) – use the gloves.

Now, to the pickling: It’s really very easy compared to other canning I have done. Wash and slice all your peppers into rings. Why rings? Well, if you do them in rings and not as whole peppers, you don’t have to skin them — and to be honest, that just looked like more work than I was up for. Plus rings are easier to use, I think.

While you’re slicing, depending on what recipe you are using, bring the vinegar-salt brine to a boil. This is our pickling agent. Note: Don’t stand over it. Few things are more painful than getting a big lungful of evaporating vinegar.

Start packing the rings and a peeled clove of garlic into the hot, sterilized jars. You will want to smush the peppers in good, but make sure a lid goes on flat. I found a hand juicer in a drawer to push them down. A pestle would be perfect!

Once the jars are packed, fill each jar with the slightly boiling vinegar brine leaving ¼ inch of headspace. Then use a chopstick or small spatula to remove any air pockets from the jar.

Place the hot lid on top and screw on the band. Process in a boiling water canner for 10-15 minutes.

Once they are done, remove the jars and allow them to cool for about 24 hours before storing. DO NOT TIGHTEN THE BANDS! Re-tightening the bands can screw up your seal. They will need to sit for a minimum of three weeks before sampling.

The best part is standing back and admiring all of your pretty jars of homegrown and/or locally grown peppers! Plus you can have a taste of summer during those bleak winter months.

Sarah Churchman is a full-time web designer+developer, a Board Member for AAF-Montgomery and Montgomery Trees, a cook, gardener, and somewhere in there fits in time to be a DIY’er.  She also is a huge Rush fan and lives in the Garden District.  You can find her on Google+ , Pinterest and occasionally on her food blog, Water Chestnuts Are Gross.

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