Monday, November 26, 2012

Canning the Night Away

I hope that y’all had a great Thanksgiving with plenty of good food and not too much family.

Shortly I will be carving up some carrots and onions and tipping them into my pressure canner, along with some bay leaves, peppercorns, and a turkey carcass. I’ll slide it onto the stove and set it to boil, then pop the weight on and listen to it dance for half an hour or so. I’ll set it to cool and wait for the lock to drop, then I’ll strain the stock and ladle it into jars, scrub the canner and set it on the burner to heat up again, this time the weight will be dancing to process the stock. This will be it’s third load today, it’s already sang to me while making a first batch of stock and I’m waiting for it to air up before taking out the 9 pints of turkey it just finished processing for me. This was harvested from a turkey that I roasted today, a 22 pounder, and there could have been more but we had some for supper and I didn’t feel that I needed to pick the bones for the last pint on it. Between what we have from this tom and frozen from the 24 pounder from Thanksgiving they gave enough. The dogs will enjoy the meaty leftovers once the stock is done and I pick out the onions and bones. The carrots they can shove aside themselves, and they will. They’ve already enjoyed the skin off of the backs. They get a few tidbits of everything on the day but their true Thanksgiving comes with the processing.


They insist that I can’t can without them pasted to my side. I probably can’t anymore lol

After the stock is made I think I’ll have two more loads, possibly three, to process. My canner is working hard today. I have 5 hours before I have to drive Silly E to school, I hope I make it or it will be a long morning. The timer is beckoning, telling me it’s time to set the jars on the table. I didn’t see too many signs of siphoning, what little bit of fat and color in the water could easily be from the outside of the jars. Tom is in the canner now, along with his drippings and the other ingredients. The jars sealed while I was coaxing him into the pot, I counted four pings and then heard what I thought was a jar breaking. Upon careful inspection it appears that five of them decided to seal at once. Well then.


Future meals!

I hear the heat pump kick on, it means the temperature in the house dropped to 65. Thankfully I remembered to turn the ceiling fan off, hot jars and a cold breeze don’t mix well. My bones are old enough to start complaining now that the temperature has fallen and the canner has filled the house with clammy humidity. I don my scarf, thankful that everyone else is asleep. I’m sure I’m a sight in my sweat pants, acid green tee, and my raspberry and sparkly gold scarf. This time of year, this time of night, it’s difficult to get warm without a blanket. The heating bill will be more easily managed. That’s what is important.


Who knows, maybe the “cold slob” look will catch on.

The weight starts it’s tuneless jig and I start timing. I wish Cave was still up. He doesn’t know how to can but he’s been around enough while I can that he recognizes how things are supposed to be and he can run a timer like nobody’s business. Canning is, until my young children are older, mostly solitary but I do appreciate his company if not his companionable silence and he appreciates the efforts of my labor. I’m his canning rock star. The in-laws benefitted from my canner this year too, taking home a jar of monkey butter and some watermelon rind pickles that Monster Girl helped make. I’m thinking about taking the kids up to visit for Christmas. Cave has to work so I probably won’t, but if I do I’ve been informed that I’ll be cooking the holiday meal up there. MIL told me I’m too good at it. I have a country ham hanging for Christmas dinner but I think she would expect, and provide, a turkey. 


MIL and the Monsters.

My brain skitters off to think about what Feinstein might propose. I have little faith that the system will oppose a new gun ban and it worries me. I’ve heard rumors and seen potential lists but the only sources I’ve been able to track down don’t seem to be the most reliable. Fear mongerers my father would have called them. The ones who predict nothing but bad and if their predictions don’t bear fruit they’re too busy blustering over the next potential problem to notice. If their predictions come true we might be left with half a dozen of the weapons we’ve been working so hard and so long to collect. The idea of them melting my Garand is nauseating. Would my gun toting, welfare hating, conservative Democrat father have been a Republican by now? He’d be in his mid-80’s and people get more conservative as they age…No, he had far too much stick it to the man going on to go full red. A Libertarian most likely.


My very red FIL took a stroll through our guns while he was here. He was grinning ear to ear.

The timer goes off, and I move the canner to the other side of the stove. Just need to wait for the lock to drop and let it air up a bit and then I can start straining the stock. Hag stretches his way into the kitchen, nose twitching at the canner. I was pleased with how he handled our company this weekend, our first visitors since we got him. He only wanted to eat them a little bit. They’re used to protective dogs and weren’t bothered by him. I kept him on the leash the first day they were here and put him in the bedroom whenever he got to staring too much. He’s a smart boy and learned quickly, it only took two trips to the bedroom and one rather stern lesson outside during a smoke break to convince him to keep it in check. Not too shabby for a big puppy who isn’t used to visitors.

He’s been sniffing after our Roxy a lot lately and then tackling her and gnawing on her with an air of “I don’t know what you’re supposed to do but you aren’t doing it.” It reminds me of a teenaged boy, picking on you until you’re ready to spit or cry and then trying to get to second base in the next heartbeat. He’s got a long wait, considering she was spayed two years before he was born. We’re thinking as long as Hag doesn’t get a case of testosterone poisoning we’ll let him keep his pertinent bits for a while longer. With things potentially headed south we’d like to be able to control at least half of the genetics of our future alarm system. I briefly thought about talking to Cave about seeing if we can find a female puppy next spring but I think three very active dogs underfoot in our rather crowded house would be a bit much.

The lock drops and I take off the weight to let the canner air for it’s ten minutes. The scent of the rich golden stock draws both of the dogs into the kitchen. Between the two birds I have 18 pint jars, 6 pint and a half jars, and a dozen half pints. Three loads for sure, possibly a fourth. 33 pints total. Slightly over 4 gallons. Thank you boys. We will be appreciating your gifts for months to come.


He tastes a lot better than he looks.

I can count on a solid hour from screwing the lid on the pressure canner to putting the jars on the counter, maybe a bit more, so I won’t finish before the kids go to school. I can probably process two loads before I have to leave. I haul out my change jar and eyeball the level. It hasn’t risen appreciably. No second canner in the near future then. It’s okay, my stove doesn’t much care for canning and a second one might send it into fits. Gas would be ideal but Cave objects.

Hag convinces me that it’s time to go out. It’s hovering right around freezing, and he hesitates in the door before plunging into the yard. I think I will waste $0.50 and warm the car up before heading for school. Cave’s alarm goes off and he staggers down the hall, mostly asleep. I tell him the temperature, asking if he wants a ride to work rather than ride the cycle. He hesitates. He’s weighing two trips for his comfort against the need to stretch the gas to the first. He sighs and says no. I decide that I won’t warm up the car after all. He gets dressed and then promptly knocks a glass of water all over his snowmobiling suit. It’s decided that he can’t ride in freezing weather with wet clothing and must have a ride, necessitating a quick waking of the teenager who manages to pull himself together and get out the door an hour earlier than he’s used to. While he’s getting dressed Cave steps out to the car and starts it warming up, I think he may have read this over my shoulder. Thanks Sweetheart.

I ask Cave to drive since I’m usually too slow when he’s in a rush. We roll up to his work 15 minutes early, which is 15 minutes late in his opinion. He’s been truly late to work twice in the 12 years that I’ve known him. We play musical seats and SE and I are off to school. The doors are open on time today. It was a rough start but it seems we’re on a roll. I head for home, hoping I can get there and say goodbye to the monsters, boy and girl, before they head off to their day. I pull in just as they’re headed down the sidewalk, they help me get the dogs inside and give me kisses and wave as they walk down the road to the bus stop.

I lift the full canner onto the burner and twist the knob to high. I tantalize myself with thoughts of chucking the rest into the fridge and dealing with it later, but I won’t, just one more load after this one. Perseverance or cussedness, I’m not sure which.

The weight has danced the final load to completion, now it’s time for the lock to drop, Crossing my fingers, I go to check. No joy, it’s still firmly locked and hissing. The house is warming in the sun, the thermostat says 69 degrees, so the canner takes it’s time cooling. Ten more minutes on the timer. Still no love, I hear it hissing from the other room. I’m tempted to bounce the tongs on the lock and let the pressure escape or to run water over the canner to lower the temperature and make the lock drop, but those could make the jars siphon the stock out and I don’t want to risk ruining my hard work and wasting the gift from the toms. It’s best to be patient.

I wake up two hours later, disoriented and confused with a sense of urgency from something forgotten. I take a moment to clear some of the fuzziness and remember the stock. It’s okay, the lock has dropped, the jars are still hot to the touch in the canner. I take them out, they’ve sealed and everything looks and smells fine. Back to bed I go.

I oversleep my alarms and have to scramble to get Silly E from his club meeting and Cave from work. This mornings journey took an hour, unwinding it takes three with the rush hour. We get home with barely enough time to get the kids fed and chores done before bedtime. Spaghetti it is. Eat quickly, load the dishwasher, brush your teeth, good night sweetheart. Even SE is tired and goes to bed early. The house falls silent, Cave is in the kitchen brooding over his computer and I am tucked into bed. The jars take up a third of the kitchen table, waiting, not quite done yet. In the morning I will check their seals, wash them with hot soapy water, dry, label, and find a place for them. Then, finally, the job will be done.


The toms sure gave the canner a workout, it ran pretty much constantly for almost 9 hours.

Good Night!

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