Water Bath Canning: Part 1

I have,  for the longest time,  had a mental block of some kind regarding canning.  I’ve always intended on learing how to can,  I just thought,  for some reason,  that I needed someone to show me EXACTLY what to do,  or I wouldn’t be able to get it right.  This isn’t because I thought it was too hard,  or there was a special trick to be learned,  or anything like that,  it just seemed to me like something that needed to be learned from someone,  in person.  Like I said,  it was just a mental block about the whole thing. 

I had grand plans of going to South Dakota to visit a friend of my mother’s to learn everything there is to know about canning.  In retrospect this seems silly,  but at the time I was convinced it was the way to go about it.  The trip seemed to be a hazy plan “in the fall,  during canning season” about every year since I got serious about gardening several years ago.  Every year something came up and it just never seemed like “the right time. ”  

This spring,  came the tipping point. 

This year,  I have had an absolutely amazing crop from my rhubarb that I planted 4 years ago.  This is the biggest crop I’ve had from it yet.  I was determined that this would be the year that I finally managed to can something,  and I decided that that “something” was going to be shrawberry-rhubarb jelly.  I LOVE strawberry – rhubarb jelly.  Like,  can eat it straight out of the jar love it,  and boy is it be hard to find (especially organic),  and when you do (most of the time at a farmers market) it is usually very expensive.  Now,  I don’t begrudge the cost,  since I know organic produce is more expensive in general,  and organic strawberries even more so, but that just makes it a rare treat indeed. 

I was absolutely determined I would figure out this whole canning “thing.”   This year.  In fact,  this spring.  Right now,  while my rhubarb was producing a luscious crop and strawberries were in season. 

My first major hurdle was finding organic strawberries that actually smelled like strawberrys and weren’t rotting.  This actually proved to be harder then I expected.   Everywhere I went it seemed like their organic strawberries were in one of three categories: 1. Unripe 2. Rotting 3. Nonexistent.  Non organic strawberries were found by the billions everywhere I went,  however,  strawberries are one of the things I insist on buying organic since they are part of the dirty dozen.  Apple’s are another big one for me,  and man,  it’s getting ridiculously hard to find organic granny smith apples these days,  for any price!  I finally lucked out at Costco,  where they were selling 2 lb containers for $7, which,  although double the price of non organic,  is a good price for organic strawberries.  I bought 10 lbs since I wasn’t sure how many I would need for the amount of rhubarb I had.

Allright,  organic rhubarb? Check.  Organic strawberries? Check.  Organic sugar? Check (also from Costco, that’s the best price I’ve found on organic CANE sugar,  since I refuse to buy beet sugar.)  Organic lemons? Check.  Organic pectin? Che…… errrr,  what? I didn’t think this one through apparently.   I actually have no idea if you can get organic pectin or not,  sadly I just grabbed the first thing off the shelf I saw in the canning section at my local Ace Hardware,  which is where I got the canning lids I used as well.  I have since discovered they are almost half the price at the local big blue box store (which I absolutely loathe shopping at with a passion I can not even begin to describe),  which might be enough to get me to shop there if I start doing a whole bunch of canning in the future.  I do plan on investing in some of the Tattler reusable canning lids in the future,  however,  I didn’t want to make the investment until I was sure I was going to be comfortable canning in the future. 

I already had a whole bunch of canning jars that I’ve collected over the years in sizes ranging from 4 oz all the way up to 1 gallon,  in both the wide mouth variety and the regular ones.   For years now I have been using glass jars for storing food both in the fridge and in the cupboards.   Not canning things,  just using them as dry storage for beans,  lentils,  chips,  popcorn,  and things like that.   I’ve also discovered if you store things in glass in the fridge they both last longer AND taste better.   No funky refrigerator taste in the food and no food adding funky smells to the refrigerator.

This has gotten so long that I am just going to end the first installment here and continue on with part 2 in another post.  



I often find myself annoyed by the environmentalist type so caught up in what they’re “doing” that they wonder around stomping on others without realizing it.  Often, they’ll look at others doing various projects with a distinctive air of superiority reeking of smug.  There’s a word for them: assholes.

For roughly 3 years now, I’ve been vegetarian.  Fin turned to the vegetarian path not long after for her own reasons.  And now, after 3 years of towing the hippy not-quite-vegan line, I’m scarfing steak, jerky, and chicken soup.  Well, sortof, I’ll get into that later.

When making an active attempt to build/create a different lifestyle, it’s pretty easy to get caught up in your own shit.  Next thing, a long look in the mirror and it’s pretty obvious you’ve joined ranks with the asshole crowd.  I’d like to think 3 years of being vegetarian would be a net-win for the environment.  Now, it looks more like a distraction than anything meaningful.

Before jumping into the asshole camp again, let me say if that’s your thing, kudos to you.  I’ve done it long enough to know how much it can suck living in a world tailored around veggies as side-dish only.  Going out to eat is near impossible, parties tricky at best, and often meals require substantial backup planning.  A vegetarian diet isn’t easy.  Of course, you can look in the mirror and say – “I haven’t supported factory farming today.”

Well, not really.  You haven’t support factory MEAT farming.  That load of chips?  Factory.  That veggie burger patty?  Factory.  That bottle of ketchup? … The list goes on.

From a “sustainability” culture standpoint, Fin and I made some big mistakes while we were vegetarian.  Instead of meat, we ate meat substitutes grown with fairly traditional agriculture, occasionally slapped with an organic label, and then thrown into the super-market complete with easy-plastic packaging.   Making one big decision led us to cheating on hundreds of day to day decisions in food purchasing.

After some substantial discussion as to pro/con on being vegetarian and other general dietary choices, Fin decided to leave the vegetarian camp, and I decided to follow her.  We also decided at the same point to only eat meat after doing some homework to insure the farm treated its livestock with dignity.  In practice, this leaves eating out mostly vegetarian. I’ll leave it to Fin (or at least another post) to fill in the details.

When researching local farms, farmers markets, and coops though, Fin and I saw the local community in a new way.    There’s a fairly good number in the metro area dedicated to the ideas of local agriculture and sustainability.  Organic or no, a quick search finds multiple producers nearby.

Of course, we knew about the local farmers markets, but the reality of our food choices became clear.  Our vegetarian lifestyle didn’t include supporting the local markets, it just continued feeding the Walmarts of the world more profits for overpriced ‘organic’ goods.

In short, sometimes multiple small and continued gestures can do more than a concentrated grand gesture.  Something to keep in mind for our next effort.

There are reasons I'm a vegetarian

I like to think I’m not the preachy kind of vegetarian. You can eat a burger in front of me and I usually don’t say anything unless I’m offered a bite and then my only response will generally be “No thank you, I’m a vegetarian.” Those preachy, rabid, “meat is murder” vegetarians really kinda piss me off actually. After all, you win more flies with honey then you do vinegar, now don’t you?

Fate has his reason’s he’s vegetarian, I have mine. They are different, but have some similarities. He can post about his sometime….but here’s mine:

Safeway Beef Recall In Arizona And New Mexico

You say: “What? That happens all the time! Its no big deal, its just a recall and the FDA is keeping us safe”

Um, yeah. Lets do the math:

Meat recalled: 22,723-lbs

Average yield from a dressed beef carcass: 569lbs

Assuming they turned all that meat into hamburger…..

Average number of cows that had to die to produce recalled beef:

22,723 lbs of beef / 569 avg cow weight =


40 cows died.

Okay, so what happens to beef that is recalled? It gets destroyed.

Thrown away.


And this is one of the smaller recalls

What about pork (that’d be pigs ya know)….

or chicken

These are living things that had to die in order to produce meat for human consumption. I don’t have a problem with that, at all, its the circle of life. I DO have a real problem with life being wasted. This is life wasted, and gross negligence on humanity’s part in being care takers of this worlds life.

I am vegetarian as a form of silent protest against the waste of life that is going on in the meat industry. There is waste everywhere in the world, in every part of things, however, this is the only part I can think of where living beings have to die for no reason at all.


Recycling and Farmers Markets

So, I called my trash company Thursday to get both my broken trash barrel replaced (the wheels are falling off and the lid is broken) and to set up recycling. Turns out recycling is $18 for three months. I was paying 10.50 for 3 months for just the trash barrel and didn’t really want to pay an extra $18 for recycling so I canceled the trash barrel and added recycling. Next project is to get a compost heap set up. I bet we have almost no actual trash after that happens. Supposedly they are going to drop off the recycling thing and pick up the trash barrel on Tuesday. We shall see considering they were supposed to replace the trash barrel like six months ago.

We went to the Farmers Community Market at Brookside and the farmers market in Overland Park. The market in Brookside is a totally organic market, the market in Overland Park is not.

Prices at the Farmers Community Market at Brookside were on par to slightly more expensive then shopping at Whole Foods. It is a pretty small farmers market, I ment to get some pictures but I forgot, I’ll have to do that next week if I remember. We had Puddin’ Head Coffee and Fate had a breakfast burrito, I had spinach and cheese quiche. I bought some tri color beans, spring mix (thats very spicy!), some tomatoes, scallions, peppers, tomotillos and a couple other things I don’t remember. I had some of the spring mix for lunch, it was very good.

The farmers market in Overland Park is a much bigger market. There was quite a few people there when we arrived around 10 am. They have a big pavillion hall type thing set up that is a permenate structure and everyone pulls up to that and sells out on tables and in some cases out of the back of trucks. You walk down an isle of vendors and basically stop at each one and get what you want from them.

There are quite a few smallish local farmers that come as well as a couple that I recognized as being resellers. Basically people that go and buy from big vendors like Sysco or American Food Service and redistribute to the public at these kinds of things. Most of The City Market is people like this if you go durning the week. I think on the weekends the actual farmers come out. That’s a market I’ve been to during the week and the prices are extremely cheap…but the produce is mostly on line with the prices from what I saw.

We got a cantelope, corn, onions, peaches, an eggplant, and I believe a few othere things at the farmers market in Overland Park. We’ll be eating very fresh this week!


How fast do you eat?

Lunch to me is a big deal. My lunch is 1 hour. Not 30 minutes. Not 15 minutes. 1 hour. So, when I eat lunch with the guys, it’s moderately annoying to me that it usually seems more like 5 minutes than 60.


Well, lunch goes like this – obtain food, eat food, talk about work. Only problem is, the eat food step is completed in about five minutes. And that makes me think, just how much can you enjoy your food in five minutes of eating?

Now, I can understand if you’re bringing the same horrific salami on white bread with soggy pickle everyday. Generally though, I have a really good lunch, one that is worth more than swallowing hole – plastic sack and all.

Sadly, I never realized that I too had fallen to the sickness of the overly quick lunch until recently. For some time now, my lunch had been subject to the vacuum cleaner effect. It came to me mid-way through the usual collection of lunch fruit: wow, I’m not getting to taste any of this. And so, I mad a conscious effort to finish my lunch eating at a normal pace.

You probably wouldn’t believe me, but just slowing down how fast I ate lunch made the entire world around me move slower too. Seriously. Simply taking 1 bite more per piece of fruit managed to break the laws of space-time. Any physicist out there can try and repeat the experiment by eating their salami on white bread by using more than 2 bites.

As a bonus, your digestive track will thank you for it. Eating too fast can lead to a great many health issues (obesity, acid reflux). Occasionally it pays to take some time, and well, taste the food.

If you find yourself having trouble slowing down, check out this associated content article.