Canning the Obsession

Canned goods sit on a table.

Canning is a useful means of food preservation, but also something that holds many lessons

We all are guilty of putting our minds to something, following through, getting obsessed with it and then, either moving forward with it (less obsessed, of course) or giving up on it. 

Recently, I became obsessed with canning. I’ve seen my parents get more into it in the last year or two and thought I’d give it a shot, my reasoning based on seeing how fragile our societal functions are following the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

So I went out roughly two months ago and bought my first set of Ball jars and lids with seals, a pressure canner and set forth into new waters. 

I decided my first batch would be horseradish pickles. I remember when Carol Gribble babysat me, watching her go to her root cellar and pulling out jars of this staple. It took me a while to come around to them, but there’s still no horseradish pickle better than hers. So I found a recipe online, tweaked it a bit by adding a little more horseradish, and went through the process: get the pressure canner boiling, make the pickling liquid, disinfect the jars and lids, fill and seal the jars and put them in the pressure canner. 

At this point, most of you reading this and know what’s coming next. 

My first mistake was, well, pressure canning the pickles. Instead of using the device to do a water bath canning, I utterly destroyed the pickles by submitting them to a high-pressure Hell, cooking them to horseradish and garlic-infused mush. Disappointed, but not deterred, I learned from my mistake and moved forward. 

The next day, I took note of what I had in our house that I could experiment with. As I was going through my mental checklist, I remembered I had a ton of boned-out venison in my deep freezer that needed to be attended to before the season opened. I went downstairs, grabbed the 10 pounds of meat remaining from my 10-point buck, and set it in the fridge to thaw.

Once unthawed, I set to work, determined to make up for my failed first round. I once again set up the pressure canner, cubed the meat and, while browning it, began disinfecting my jars and lids. A quick fill saw the jars go straight into the canner. When ready, I set the correct weight and finished the process. 

Everything looked right, and after letting it cool down that wonderful “pop!” could be heard as I drifted off to sleep. 

It goes without saying that for the last two months I’ve been nervous about how the venison turned out. Sunday night I cracked open a jar, reheated a few tender cubes, heated flour tortillas, and combined the two with a hot pepper crema. 

With the first bite, my worries disappeared. While there’s some lesson to be learned here – maybe about how canning is a near-forgotten thing with my generation, or about growing through a pandemic – I’m just happy I dived this new obsession. 

As I prepare to step away from my computer, I have a pot of corn chow chow simmering on the stove with my canner warming up and my jars and lids disinfecting. The smell of vinegar fills the air, likely to stick around until the morning when the next round of canning is done and my chow chow is going into our cabinet. It’s a good obsession to have. 

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