A month or so ago, my friend Jessica had read about a local canning club in the newspaper, had done some research to find out what it was all about and how to get involved, and asked me if I'd like to join her for the next meeting. Umm, YES!
So, last Thursday, I paid my $10 membership fee and am now a legitimate member of the local canning club!
We basically walked in the door, paid our dues, and were ushered toward the table where tomatoes were being peeled using a Fry Daddy and a bowlful of ice water. It was apparently salsa-making-night! I love the concept of learning by doing, so this was right up my alley.
I also loved having ready answers to my canning questions. For example:
Q: Can I use my pressure canner for processing salsa?
A: Yes, but it's unnecessary and may result in an overcooked, goopy product.
Q: Can I substitute the Habanero peppers from my garden for the jalapenos called for in the recipe?
A: Yes, but be sure to keep the volume the same. For example, if I use fewer Habaneros because they're hotter, I need to sub in some milder peppers to keep the volume ratios the same.
Q: Can I food process rather than just roughly chop the tomatoes so that I can achieve a consistency more like the salsa at my favorite Mexican restaurant?
A: Yes, so long as I use the correct amounts of the ingredients, the way you slice, dice, or puree them shouldn't affect the success of the finished product.
The older ladies seemed to assume that Jessica and I were completely inexperienced canners, and we basically just let that go. I don't know about her, but I'd rather let them treat me like a novice than think I'm so experienced that they skip over some of the canning wisdom they might otherwise bestow.
I thought it was interesting how eclectic the mix of people seemed to be. I mean, we were all there, after all, with a common goal -- canning. Yet, I heard a few ladies discussing how to be sure your jar "presented well" for judging at the local fair. . . and yet another lady who seemed to be there for Doomsday Preppers training asking whether it would be possible to can salsa without electricity. There were grandmas in their quilted aprons and business women still in their heels. There was even a middle-aged man who seemed to be of no relation to any woman there and who made his salsa extra spicy by adding additional peppers straight to his jar. I absolutely loved getting to be apart of this mix.
Because none of the ingredients were from a backyard garden, the canned jars of salsa came out to $2.75 apiece. This seemed crazy high to me, but, then, I've never canned a product that I bought at the grocery store. I paid my $2.75, poured my salsa into a hot jar, wiped my rim clean, added my seal and ring and initials in black sharpie, and watched it all go into the hot water bath. My seal buckled during processing (which is something that has never happened to me at home. I heard someone remark that that's what we get for not using Ball lids. I've always used Ball lids, so maybe they truly are superior ;) Anyway, the instructors weren't sure whether or not it would "ping," indicating that the seal was good, so they sent me home with an extra jar, too, just in case.
Later that evening, as I lay in bed reading, I shot up in alarm as I heard the "ping" in the kitchen. Then, realizing what it was, I smiled to myself. It seems I got a 2-for-1 deal on my salsa -- it sealed, after all.
Jessica, thanks so much for doing the legwork on this and for inviting me to be a part! I'm already looking forward to next time!
For anyone local who's interested in joining up, we'll be doing something with local pears at our next monthly meeting, October 11. Come join us!