Tuesday, June 15, 2010

You Can, You Can!

Jarden 60000 Ball 1/2-Pint Mason Jars, 12 PackLast night I held a houseparty at my house.  I sign up for those and then I always am so nervous, will anyone come?  BUT, the nice thing about it, is you get a lot of free stuff to have the party and you're obligated to HAVE the party, so even if no one comes it's still a win.

But, people came.  Phewsh!

The theme for this party was learning how to can, with some help from Ball.  I told myself I'd take pictures at the party, but it was a busy time and that just didn't happen.

We made salsa and jam.  Here's a basic overview of how to can salsa:

1.  Prep your jars.  I threw mine in the dishwasher.  You need to make sure that they're hot before you start adding hot salsa to the jar.  We come from an era of pyrex and I forgot that whole glass expand/contract thing.  Hot things need hot jars.  If you're cold canning I guess you could use cold jars.

Jarden Home Brands 1440010740 21 Quart Stainless Steel Boiling Water Canner2.  Boil your water.  Ball sent me this pot.  It took almost an hour to boil.  For real.  In other news, wow!  That pot is 81 bucks on Amazon... and yes, I got it for free!  Nice.

3.  Get your salsa ready.  Now, here's a clue from me.  You need to FOLLOW THE RECIPE.  Ball has tested it to make sure that it has the right acidity to sit in jars.  Our recipe was a little spicy for my taste, but good.  I was nervous to decrease the # of jalapenos though, in fear that it'd make it wrong.  I also read that you should blanche your tomatoes and skin them before making it since if you don't the peels will come off and float to the top of your jar.  Ew.  we also used my immersion blender to get the salsa less chunky (we also used that same blender on the salsa, so I think it's a pretty handy thing to have around). 

Back to Basics 5-Piece Home Canning Kit4.  Put the salsa in your hot jars.  Ball sent me this nice little kit with a jar lifter, a funnel, a little magnetic lid grabber (it wasn't the kit in the photo but you get the idea).  We found the jar lifter and funnel to be super helpful.  We have another little magnetic thing that you could use to get the lids out (or even just tongs).  There was also a spatula/head space measurer.  It was fairly useless. After you put the salsa in, you are supposed to run a spatula around the endges of the jar to make sure there aren't any trapped air pockets (I think this would be more important if you were canning larger items, like whole tomatoes).

5.  Check your head space   You could just use a ruler or figure out where it is on your jars.  You need to leave a certain amount (your recipe says how much) of air at the top of the jar or I think they can explode, or not seal correctly (but exploding is much more exciting, don't you think?). 

6.  Wipe the top of your jars, so no food gets between the jar and the seal.

Ball Regular Dome Canning Jar Lid, Box of 127.  Put the lid and ring on (lids and rings are separate in canning jars). The ring doesn't have to be super tight, as it's just kind of holding the lid on, it has nothing to do with the sealing process (you can even store them without the rings and just use the rings for your canning process).

8.  Put it in your water (which is hopefully at a simmer by now) -- this is where the jar lifter comes in REALLY handy... it's a lot easier with that than tongs.

9.  Bring water to a roaring boil.

10.  Boil jars for as long as your recipe says (boiling time only starts from when the pot is at a roaring boil, not when you put them in and the water's at a simmer).

11.  Turn off heat to water, let jars sit for 5 minutes.

12.  Remove jars and let them sit on your counter (on a dishtowel, you don't want hot jars touching your cold counter... or guess what, they could explode!) for 12 hours.

13.  After 12 hours (leave them alone for the 12 hours) check the seal.  Push down on the lids, if they don't compress you should be good.  You can also remove the ring and gently see if the lids are attached.

I was pretty proud that all of mine sealed, and we had a taste of the salsa last night and it was really good!

Will I do it again?  Possibly.  I mean, now that I have all the stuff there isn't a huge investment into it (but I'd probably need to buy some larger jars).  We have a lot of tomato plants in the back yard and I think that canning some crushed tomatoes or possibly more salsa/spaghetti sauce appealing.  I do like the fact that I know everything that's in it.  I can control any preservatives, salt or sugar.  It was fun doing it with my friends.  I hope they learned a little something out of it too.  The great thing about houseparties is that you are NOT selling anything.  You demonstrate, and then give them free stuff.  My guests got 2 boxes of pectin, each 2 jars of jam and salsa and some reuseable grocery bags.  I hope it was worth their time.  All in all it took about 4 hours, from when I started the jars til' they left (we did let the jars cool a little before they left).  We were canning pretty small jars and it was slower then it would be if you were doing larger jars for your family.  Also, we did jam and salsa.  Jam alone probably only would have taken an hour, which would be well worth it if you had a good deal on berries!

Ball is also really promoting small batch canning, which makes sense because then you woudln't need to boil a GIANT pot of water.  They sent me the small kit to the right.  It comes with the basket and 3 larger jars.  I think this would be really helpful if I have a giant batch of tomatoes I just harvested,  I could just make a nice pot of crushed tomatoes and get them canned fairly quickly.  My only problem is that I need a larger pasta pot then what I have.  I am guessing I could borrow one from a neighbor though.  **I did just read on amazon that the plastic on this thing melts.  I have yet to try it, so buyer beware. :)  When I was showing it last night, that was everyone's question "does it melt?".  So far, I haven't heard that it does melt from any of the other hostesses who also recieved it free.  It may have been just that one person's pot or whatever.

In other news, I watched a lot of youtube videos on how to can both salsa and Jam and this one was the most amusing.  Does anyone else feel like they are a living SNL sketch?