Sunday, October 16, 2011

Locavore Christmas = Planning Ahead

So last year, I signed up for my bank's Christmas club. The money just hit my main account this week, and I'm beginning to plan things out in earnest. And when I was grocery shopping at a certain superstore (I know, I know - I told you I'm no purist!) I saw these canning kits that were really inexpensive and I said to myself, I said, "why not? I've been dancing around this for years!" and then I bought them.

Both were made by Ball - one was a utensil kit with the jar grabber and all, and one was called a "Canning Discovery Kit." (I am not in any way monetized, by the way; I link just to show you what I bought, and won't gain a thing if you click or even purchase them there.) I liked the idea of the "Discovery Kit" because you can use it right in whatever pot you already have, and then the utensil set came with everything else I knew I'd regret failing to buy.

But as it turned out, the goofy plastic rack they put in the discovery kit was broken before I even got it out of the box. I felt that even if I replaced it and the new one was unbroken, it probably would break before very long, because of course canning goods are heavy.

And yet, by this time, I was really attached to the idea of canning. I'd already gone so far as to look up recipes and instructions to make sure you could can the things I wanted to without a pressure canner. (I don't like the idea of canning most produce, whose seasons mean heating up your kitchen in the middle of the summer, but it's hard for me to get enough of cooking apples. And it just so happens that apple butter is an old favorite of my father's. I wasn't sure apples were doable, but a little research reassured me on that point.) I was invested in the notion of presenting my dad with something he'd be genuinely excited about at Christmas time - which is no mean feat. And when I looked up instructions, an Amazon link on the page showed you could get an enamel canner with a metal rack for about $20.

Man, was I ever sold. That's only a $10 difference from that stupid "Discovery Kit!" I knew I'd pay more at the hardware store around the corner (it's a chain, too, so arguably not much better than the discount store), but it's so close and it was just calling to me.

Now I have everything I need. The kids and I went apple picking that afternoon, and began cooking down a half-bushel of Golden Delicious that very afternoon.

I'm following these instructions here, except that a half-bushel only makes 7 quarts, not 9 - so all the other ingredients have to be scaled down by approximately three quarters. It's also taking far more than 18 hours to cook it down the way it should be, so it seems unlikely that I'll get to actually try canning until at least tomorrow.

I hope it goes smoothly! Matt will wanna kill me if I bought all this equipment and none of it pans out.