Thursday’s Thoughts ~ Working Under Pressure…

I used to do a lot of canning in the early years of my marriage.  Ed’s mother taught me how to put up green beans and tomatoes in jars, make all kinds of jelly, and how to freeze vegetables.  We spent many hot summers working together in her kitchen.  The years quickly passed, people got older and busier, and canning pretty much became a thing of the past for us–but that is quickly changing!  I am in the process learning how to “can” and preserve again!

A few weeks ago I ordered a pressure cooker/canner.  I’ve always been intimidated by pressure cookers, and wouldn’t go within a mile of one.  However, I soon discovered if I was going to safely preserve vegetables and meats in jars, I would have to get over my fears.

Last Saturday, in the midst of our Easter preparations, Ed and I finally pulled the new pressure canner out of the box!  I’d by lying if I told you that my palms weren’t a bit sweaty…

I decided to try a  batch of beef stew.  I only had enough beef to make four quarts of stew, but that was fine with me! I figured I’d rather work with a small batch for the first attempt–just in case it didn’t turn out.

While doing my research for a pressure canner, I quickly discovered I wouldn’t be able to use a large canner on top of my kitchen stove…Sigh.  These new glass tops aren’t built to support large, heavy canners.  Who knew?  As a result of this complication, I did the prep work of the meat and vegetables in my kitchen (including putting them in the jars), while Ed had to do the actual cooking/canning over a gas burner outside.  I was secretly a little bit glad that the actual “cooking” was going to be done outside–just in case the pot blew up!  I’d heard some pretty awful tales concerning this…

Between the two of us, Ed and I figured out how to safely get the food in the jars, the jars inside of the canner, and the heat properly adjusted.  He watched the pressure gauge, while I watched the timer…Ninety minutes later the bell rang, signaling it was time to turn off the heat!  Now came the part I dreaded the most–letting the pressure go down and opening the pot!

Ed almost removed the weight a bit early, but I cautioned him not to!  He says it would’ve been okay…(yeah, right!)  Finally, the gauge read zero, and ten more minutes had passed.  It was time to lift the lid…only the lid wouldn’t lift!  We’d read in the manual that this might happen, so we knew to get a screw driver…I felt queasy at the thought of Ed taking a screwdriver to my brand-new, two-hundred dollar pot, but after a gentle pry–viola, the pot lid came off!  We gently removed the contents of the canner, and set the jars of stew aside to cool and (hopefully) seal.  I’m  happy to report, all jars sealed!

Last night Ed and I opened a jar of our “newly canned” beef stew, and ate it for supper.  Since it’s not recommended to preserve vegetables and meat in a gravy base (it hinders the jars from sealing), I had to make some gravy first, then add the jar of meat, veggies, and water to the hot gravy.  The whole process took about ten minutes, and the stew actually tasted pretty darn good!

Ed and I have discovered that we work pretty well “under pressure”, so we’ll be preserving some more beef stew and also trying some chili in the near future.  Hopefully, we may even get to put up a few fresh veggies from the garden!  Stay tuned for our further canning adventures…

Published in: on April 12, 2012 at 8:42 am  Comments (6)  
Tags: , ,

Times Are Changing…

While Ed, and I were growing into mature adults, an era was beginning to end.  It was the era of being “self-reliant”.  Our parents grew up learning how to grow and can their own food.  They also knew what it was like to raise farm animals for food, and they routinely went hunting or fishing for food for the dinner table.  Our parents passed some of these skills on to us, but times were changing…

We were quickly moving toward the era of “fast foods” and convenience stores.  Hamburger helper and frozen pizzas.  Sound familiar?

Although Ed and I routinely helped our parents gather and preserve vegetables from their gardens, we never helped much with the actual planting or tending.  Ed never cared much for hunting, and neither of us is much of a fisherman, despite repeated efforts over the years!  Ed planted his own garden, on two separate occasions, but failed to have much success, despite his best efforts.

As our parents gradually became too old to garden,  I began slowly phasing out canning our own garden-fresh vegetables.  I went from picking and shelling, all day–to buying a few vegetables already picked and shelled at the market or the grocery store.  I’d simply blanch them in small batches, and be done!   Gone were the long days of toiling away in a garden–temporarily.

Times are changing–again!  This year, Ed and our son-in-law, Clint,  have decided to embark upon a new adventure together– planting a garden!  They’ve decided to learn how to be a little more self-reliant–and to enjoy eating the fruits of their labor, once again.

Last  year, Clint was able to grow small amounts of squash, cucumbers, mustard and collard greens, in a tiny spot of land, tended only with a rake and a hoe.  Clint even grew a watermelon in his flower bed–without even trying (and a pumpkin the year before that!)  I tell you, the man has a green thumb!  Hopefully, some of it will rub off on Ed!

A few days ago, the guys planted potatoes in their new garden.  Clint’s been getting some expert advice from his grandfather, who is well into his seventies, and still plants a garden!  Clint’s grandfather showed him how to cut the “eyes” off the seed potatoes, and explained how to go about planting them.  The man has a wealth of knowledge to share, and we’re all willing to learn!

If all goes well, perhaps we’ll have some potatoes later in the spring!  Hopefully, there will be some green beans and squash to go along with those potatoes, too!  A little later on, perhaps we’ll have some tomatoes, peas, corn, and watermelons.  Sounds like a plan to me!

Photobucket

Published in: on February 28, 2012 at 9:54 am  Comments (13)  
Tags: ,

Flashback Friday…How Does Your Garden Grow?

 

Whenever I saw Linda’s topic for today was “gardening”, I knew I had to write a post!  Linda’s beginning rhyme was “Mary, Mary!  Quite contrary!  How does your garden grow?”  My answer is–“It doesn’t!”  My husband and I aren’t worth a flip at growing much of anything, but our parents loved to grow things, for as long as we can remember.  Our mothers loved growing all kinds of flowers, while our daddies grew vegetables in their gardens.  Ed’s dad was actually a farmer, and grew crops to sell in his younger years.

Oddly enough, my parents never lived on a farm when I was growing up, but always managed to live in a house, in town, that had enough space in the backyard for a vegetable garden.  Daddy always found someone with a tractor,  to “harrow up” his garden, and get it ready to plant in the spring, then daddy tended the garden using a push plow the rest of the year.  He always managed to grow enough vegetables to feed our family for an entire year.  You could say he definitely had a green thumb, and one of the prettiest gardens around!

daddy mowing the grass...his garden is to the right (early 80s)

While I was growing up, and beyond, every summer was spent picking tomatoes, all kinds of peas, butter beans, squash, green beans, and corn, then “canning” or freezing the vegetables.  We shelled our peas and beans by hand.  Sometimes my maternal grandmother, would come and help us shell our peas.  After we got our peas and beans shelled, we blanched them, and put them in our freezer.

We always put our green beans in jars, then blanched them in a large canner.  We could only do seven quarts at a time though, so it was a slow process.  Sometimes we did the same thing with tomatoes, but most of the time we just put our tomatoes in the freezer after stewing them down a bit, then letting them cool.

my grandmother and mama (see the houseplants)

I hated canning corn the most!  Removing it from the cobb is such a messy job.  The juice from the kernels goes everywhere while it’s being cut off the cobb, and corn juice is sticky!  Mama always took some corn on the cobb, blanched it, and put it in the freezer whole.  Whenever she took it out of the freezer and boiled it, the corn tasted like it had just been picked!  I’ve never been able to freeze corn on the cobb like mama could!

After I married my husband, our parents became good friends.  Both families had vegetable gardens, and  in the summer, all of us would sometimes gather and “put up” vegetables together. We’d have a great time talking and joking while getting the work done.  Our parents shared their vegetables with each other, too.  Those sure were some great times! 

Mama had a green thumb, but she used her talents to grow all kinds of plants and flowers.  She had an abundance of flowers inside and out in the yard, during her younger years.  Mama was always “rooting” something, as was my mother-in-law.  I’m sharing a photograph of me and my daughter, standing in mama and daddy’s rose garden.

me and my daughter posing in the rose garden in 1980 (garden in background)

  A couple of years ago, I ran into the woman who used to live next-door to my parents, many years ago.  She lived in the mobile home that you see in some of the photos in this post.  This woman told me how my mama had taught her how to grow plants and flowers, and how much fun she had learning from mama.  It made my heart feel good to hear her say such nice things about mama, but at the same time it made me sad.

You see, I never cared much for growing flowers as a young adult, so I missed out on that wealth of knowledge that my mama could have shared with me, as she had with her neighbor.  To this day, I can kill a houseplant faster than you can say “boo”!

My daddy’s been gone for nearly twenty years now, while mama’s been gone nearly fourteen years.  How I miss those garden fresh vegetables that he used to grow!  I also miss the good times we used to have out in the garden picking those peas and butter beans!  My mama had a habit of disappearing into the house in the middle of the bean picking–only to return about the time we were finishing up! 

Occasionally, I’ll ride by my parents old house, and remember the good old days. It’s been more than twenty years since anyone grew a garden there, and all of the rose bushes have long been gone.  That mobile home that used to be next door, isn’t there anymore.  I sure do miss the good old days…

Speaking of the good old days, today would’ve been my daddy’s birthday.  He would’ve turned 85.

Published in: on April 15, 2011 at 7:23 am  Comments (11)  
Tags: , , ,