Friday, June 11, 2010

The Bitter Truth About Canning

     Fear. We evolved with this emotion for survival purposes but it holds us back and can make life boring. Fear of failure (which is the same as fear of success, think about it), fear of rejection, fear of being alone, fear of intimacy, fear of commitment, fear of death and the worst fear of all: FEAR OF CANNING.
     I admit I was very very afraid. Like a little girl with goosebumps sticking her big toe into the frigid waters of a swimming pool. So cold, but I'm going to try. I bought books, but when I read about botulism and air bubbles, I had to put it down. Another poolside day for me. Canning seemed like a lot of steps, a lot of hassle, a lot of a lot. And the fear of death by jam or worse killing others, was a turn off.
When Maura invited me over for a Canning Party that was sponsored by Ball, I had a fear of commitment spawned by the overall fear of canning. Its a vicious cycle that must stop. The invitation said, "bring jars, food, knives, cutting board." There would be some major chopping going on. And canning.
     Maura is a lady with no fears and because of that does a lot of cool stuff. She is the friend to whom you find yourself saying, "you are doing what? Really?! Well how in the world did you work that out?" And she flashes that gorgeous smile and says something really simple like, "I just asked," with a shrug of her shoulders. She somehow managed to get Ball to send her all this Ball shwag, (repeat: Ball shwag) including one of those gigantic expensive canning pots.
I got there a little late and I pride myself on punctuality. Maybe I was busy or maybe I was delaying the inevitable: facing my worst fear.
    When Maura answered the door in her berry stained apron and welcomed me into her awesome garden apartment in Brooklyn Heights (would you like some botulism, jam Maura?) I was all, "Here's some wine. I'm just observing."
An observer who asked a lot of annoying questions and took a lot of annoying pictures.
    When I got there they had just gotten started. A lot was going on, but it wasn't scary at all. A few familiar faces and lovely new people to chat with and it was more about socializing than canning. I can get into this. Just my style. Lots of fun and lots of food.
Ann Apparu, chef of the 18th Restaurant, returned with her hands stained black from a morning of mulberry picking. What's a mulberry? Ever walk down a city street and see those berries on the ground that stain the cement? You can eat those. We had a giant mulberry tree in the yard that I could pick from on top of the tree house that Rocco built for us. They are the size and texture of raspberries but not as sweet with a deeper flavor that is very distinct.
Alex made a salted lemon preserve with bay leaf and cinnamon and the girls made a hot jalapeno plum marmalade and pickles.
I was wishing I had brought over the rhubarb that was slowly becoming more and more limp as the days passed.
Like a good little teacher Maura went step by step through the gigantic canning presentation manual Ball sent. She is elegantly using the stem of a lily as a pointer. She was so professional about the whole thing and I was so surprised to learn it was her first time canning, too!

Well we won't know if the preserves will kill anyone for a while, so there is time to mark my fears as having been warranted, but I did leave with a new confidence in canning. It was fun and really easy. To watch that is. Thats the bitter truth about canning. Nothing to fear.
   I felt so bold that the next day I opened my fridge and said, "rhubard, I'm not gonna let you die evening if by canning you, you might kill me!" and I made a too sweet chutney that would be perfect for some roasted rosemary lamb chops. When I went to can I didn't have a big enough pot. How convenient. But I did march over to the parental units and scored a huge pot, which will be perfect for the even more rhubarb we are getting in this week's share. I'm gonna jam this week! Pineapple Rhubarb Jam to be exact. Breathe. Stay tuned.


Roman Espejo said...

Ha! The total day was a spectator sport for me. The pickles were especially good. Lovely photos as well!

micemilk said...

i'm so proud of you! i did spaghetti sauce last year and we ate it all and are still living. hopefully the jam i did turned out.
anywho, we need to team up. i definately have "ball shwag" jen. i just got a good book on jams that don't use pectin. just the good stuff.

Morta Di Fame said...


@micemilk I have some jam with your name on it honey. Will give to Erik Monday!

kathyb said...

come on girl! easy-peasy! nice job. next is blueberry jam with chazlie and i in july.

Morta Di Fame said...

yeah!!! we've been saying this for every summer! IT MUST HAPPEN!

Lauren Vincelli said...

How did it turn out? I grew up with my mom making black berry jam from the berries on a huge bush we used to have in the back yard. I still remember how good the house smelled.

I started canning (under my mother's supervision) last summer. She made cherry tomato jam, pepper jelly, and lots of different pickles. I made two different kinds of hot sauce.

If I can do it you can do it! Don't be scared! You just gotta listen for that POP!

Lauren Vincelli said...

I was so inspired by that great pickelicious picture in this post that I made pickles yesterday.