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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Canning Day

The weather has finally decided to become summer again, and it's expected to be ninety-five over the weekend.  It was high time I got the pickles and sauerkraut canned before it got too hot for them and spoiled our efforts.

Canning day
The pickles went off without a hitch.  I started at six o'clock this morning and had all of them canned up in fairly short order.  I had a slice off a couple of pickles from different fermenting batches; aside from tasting like they need more time, they also taste like they're going to be decent, and none were mushy.   One thing that was odd (but not a hitch) was that one of the jars made a strange sound and after I got everything out of the canner I found this one:

Canning phenomenon

The cap buckled outward.  I haven't been canning very long, but I haven't had this happen before.  Has anyone else had this happen?  Do you know what caused it?  This jar is going straight into the fridge, as soon as it's cool enough.  No sense taking chances.

The sauerkraut did not go off well, however.  First, it didn't seem to be completely fermented, even though it had stopped bubbling and had been held at anywhere from sixty-eight to seventy-four degrees for four weeks.  On the plus side though, there was no mold.  Just no sour, either.  I also learned that I don't like it fermented with extra stuff in it.  Per the instructions for weinkraut, we also added a (very) few juniper berries, some caraway seeds, and a bay leaf.  I think things would have been okay with everything but the caraway seed- I just didn't like how it smelled.  Next time I try this, I'm sticking to straight sauerkraut, too. No weinkraut.  I'm also not doing it with cabbage I've poured my heart and soul into trying to rear.  I'll buy a few organic cabbages this fall and try it again.

Since it wasn't sour enough, I ladled the remainder of the pickling liquid (water, salt, vinegar, and a wee bit of sugar) into each of the jars and processed the first seven.  Then it dawned on me that maybe they still weren't acid enough and maybe I needed to process them in my pressure canner.  After a thorough search high and low for the instructions that came with the canner, I discovered that they indicate that sauerkraut should be canned in a boiling water bath, not a pressure canner.  This was after I had Steve go to the trouble of digging out my pressure canner, of course.   I'm worried about the kraut not being acid enough to be safe, but the pressure canner instructions say not to use the pressure canner for sauerkraut.  It's two o'clock in the afternoon and I've been canning since six this morning.  Now what the hell do I do?

I call the Food Sciences and Technology extension at Oregon State University, that's what I do.   Their Food Safety Expert is on sabbatical.  Just between you and me, what the hell is the Food Safety Expert doing on sabbatical during canning season, I'd like to know.  The woman on the other end directs me to the extension for my county, which is Clackamas.  I tell her I only have the Master Gardener's information.  She gives me a number.  I call it.  It's a fax number.  Somewhat deafened by the high pitched whine, I call her back to get the real number, which she gives to me.  I call it.  They can't answer my question and suggest that I call the Food Preservation Safety Hotline and they give me the number for that.  I call that and I finally get to talk to someone who knows what to tell me to do.

Freeze it.  

Which I do, but not until after I've poured sauerkraut juice into my Birkenstocks and all over the front of the cabinet and the floor.

Did I also mention that I finally got around to calling the State of Oregon Employment Department today and after a very long wait on the phone, I found out that I qualify for extended benefits, but since I haven't looked for work this week yet and she can't reopen my claim for the future, I'll have to call back next week and go through it all over again.

It's been a helluva day.


Toni aka irishlas said...

I've never seen a lid buckle like that. That is just plain weird.

You did have a helluva day. Isn't the local coop just a "pleasure" to deal with?

Paula said...

Yes, a 'pleasure.' Actually, right after talking with the woman on the hotline I wrote the number and hours of operation down on a blank label and pasted it to the front of the refrigerator. She was great!

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

Long after the smell of sauerkraut has faded from your Birkenstocks and you've landed your next (interesting, satisfying) job, you will be glad to have taken this time to develop these skills. You will have a larder of pickles and a freezer of sauerkraut. And you will know exactly where you put the instructions to your pressure canner.

I hate it when people remind me of stuff like that. Good thing I'm too far away for you to hit.

Have a beter day tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

I've never seen this before, either. Logic suggests that the lid may have been screwed on too tightly, and when it was heated in the water bath, the entrapped air wasn't able to escape, so it buckled the lid when it expanded.

Paula said...

That actually makes a lot of sense. Tightening the lid seems to be a fairly high-wire act then. I had a jar of salsa leak in the pressure canner, and since I didn't know which it was, I wound up refrigerating all of that batch. So I tend to screw the lids on pretty good anymore. Guess I'd better watch that.