I Can, Therefore I Am

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I took a break from canning for the past two years. Now and then, I regretted not canning, but life moved on at a fast speed and I understood myself and gave myself a pass for not doing this. My husband actually promised me the healthiest applesauce money can buy – organic, no sugar added, with the highest possible nutrition score on the label – just so I skip canning.

Peaches in light syrup

Peaches cooking in a light syrup, almost ready to go into jars.

He does not like see me “slaving” in the kitchen. Isn’t he a darling? He wanted me to give myself a break from canning, too.  Continue reading »

Some people think canning is a thing of the past, something American grandmas used to do. But no, wait, there was a lady who told me her mom canned every year. Then she added, “I just don’t have that gene.” I replied that some years I have that gene, and others I just don’t. This year, I do.

My conclusion is that if I do any canning, I have to be in the right frame of mind – the canning frame of mind. I should not guilt myself into it, I should not compare myself to somebody else in order to motivate myself to do it etc. I should do it because I want to do it.

Jars of homemade salsa

Jars of salsa drying off after the waterbath

It’s a lot of work and the kitchen is a mess for a day or two. But guess what? It takes only one minute to wipe the counters and 10 minutes to mop the sticky floor of the kitchen after a day of canning. And then you have the glorious jars to admire and enjoy for the next 12 months. Plus you have a clean kitchen, cleaner than if you had not canned. Who mops their kitchen floor every day? I don’t. It does not get sticky every day.

But what really motivated me to can this year is – well – several things. In all honesty, I have become more and more accustomed to that really good taste of fresh salsa one gets in a Mexican restaurant. So store-bought salsa just does not make the cut anymore.

Visiting Romania in April reminded me of zacusca – a roasted vegetable spread for bread, which I cannot even buy in the States. It’s best when you make it yourself anyway.

Then, of course, the thought of homemade applesauce is enough to make my mouth water. Last but not least, I wanted to can peaches. I love peaches in every form: fresh, canned, in a jelly, dried, in a compote.

So here I am, canning four recipes and seeing if I make enough from the first batch. I have a feeling I want to can more just so I have 24 jars (quarts or pints) of each recipes. I have ordered my ingredients from a wholesaler and on the first day I canned six pints of salsa (plus a quart – somehow I got more than the recipe said I would) and 12 quarts of peaches. The rest will have to happen next week.

Fall Traditions – Canning Applesauce

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The most important reason I homeschool is that I want to spend time with my children and make lots of memories. Their adulthood will be so much longer than their childhood. I want them to remember I offered them not just quality time, but also quantity time.

This is where fall traditions come in. We could can applesauce any other month of the year. When I called a farmer once to check if they had apples, she almost burst out laughing and informed me the only month they do NOT have apples is February. September and October equal canning to me probably because my own mother canned during the fall.

Applesauce cooking in pot

Applesauce cooking in pot

We got so busy in September, we bumped canning to October. On the 30th, I figured it was that day or never. So all four of us got into the car and headed for the apple orchard.

We bought two bushels of apples because I wanted to produce 24 quarts of applesauce. My recipe is simple, straight out of the Ball Blue Book of Preserving: 3 lbs of apples per quart of applesauce. I do not use sugar at all. Just 2-3 cups of water per pot so the apples do not stick while cooking.

My son helped with the peeler-corer-slicer. Of course, it counted as Home Ec. In fact, that whole day went down in the books as a homeschool day with a field trip and a home ec project (besides Bible and reading books with daddy in English and with mommy in Romanian and French). My daughter helped with washing the apples. She said at one point, “This is so much fun…”

One pot heats up the water for the sealing process. The other cooks the apples down.

Water bath canner next to pot cooking applesauce

Water bath canner next to pot cooking applesauce

I process seven jars at one time, for 20 minutes.

Jars with applesauce before being lowered in a water bath canner

Water bath canner holds 7

And the result of our labor of love…

Applesauce jar on a shelf in our pantry

Applesauce jars on a shelf in our pantry

Homeschooling allows us to spend lots of time together, to make memories and establish traditions of different sorts. Canning applesauce is our fall tradition – more so than playing in a pile of leaves or visiting a pumpkin patch.