Katie: Fully equipped with canning equipment, we decided to begin by trying Roasted Red Pepper Spread from the Ball cookbook. Our first step was to find the ingredients. After buying out two venders and accumulating two bags full of red bell peppers, we still needed to buy two more peppers from the store to reach six pounds. The peppers roasted nicely in the broiler and the skins can off pretty easily. They smelled great!
After pureeing the skinned and deseeded peppers and tomatoes in the food processor, we mixed in roasted garlic, roasted onion, fresh basil, red wine vinegar, and a little salt and sugar, and simmered it down to a thicker paste. It became a little dangerous when the sauce started spurting really high. My mom even got some in her hair! But we got it back under control.
Next, we relied on the canning techniques we’ve been acquiring. We filled jars that were sterilized in the dishwasher, measured the correct head space, cleaned the rims, and sealed the jars. Then, we boiled them in the canner. We were happy that they came out clean without exploding and we even heard the lovely pop of the jars sealing. Now we have jars of delicious pepper spread to store, give away, or enjoy whenever we want.
Katie: When my mom asked me if I wanted to take a pickle making class with her, I was kind of reluctant. Canning pickles sounded like a pasttime for little old ladies. But she was pretty persistent, so I agreed to try it. When we got to the class, I was surprised that I wasn’t the youngest participant. There was a span of about 3 generations of women gathered to learn how to properly can pickles.
Canning is also more scientific than I expected and involves exact methods and safety precautions. The class was taught by Master Food Preservers through the UW Extension program. While canning is somewhat time consuming, it was fun doing it as a group and sharing the work. We worked together chopping and adding ingredients, and learned about the proper methods along the way.
After learning to can pickles, we also took a salsa canning class, which was even more popular. We used 100 pounds of tomatoes and each took 2 cans of salsa home with us. We also recently volunteered to can corn relish using locally grown and donated produce for a local food pantry, which became my brother’s introduction to canning.
Now that we’ve been able to learn the proper techniques, we’ve gotten the equipment ourselves and are looking forward to experimenting with other recipes and making gifts for others!