CARTHAGE, Mo. —
Recently I spent the day with my grandma while she patiently gave me my second canning lesson. My first walk-through was two years ago, if that tells you anything about my love for this lost art.
Like many kitchen-related adventures, I love the idea of canning. I yearn for a pantry filled with dusty jars of floating matter in an array of muted colors. First of all, I don’t have a pantry. I also don’t have cabinet space or enough garden goodies to bother canning. Nevertheless, I want to learn to can for the same reason that I want to sew well: These are skills that were necessary at one time, but convenience no longer requires them. I don’t want to romanticize times when life was more labor intensive. But I do want to know how they did it. My gracious grandma claims to really enjoy canning and is happy to help. She is a saint. No joke.
Tomatoes are the obvious choice for our canning endeavor. Thanks to a generous contribution from my parents, we have plenty of tomatoes to “put up.” There is a dizzying array of containers involved in canning. Every burner on the stove is set to high while boiling water for tomatoes. Jars in varying sizes and their corresponding lids and rings fill the sink and countertops. It is chaos. But grandma has the situation under control.
We plop what seems like an endless supply of tomatoes into boiling water for a minute, so as to easily slip off the skins. Then there’s more boiling of tomatoes and water and pressure cookers. It’s all a blur. I end up having to can a few jars at home by myself. With my trusty canning manual by my side, I hope all is well. The book is frighteningly serious about canning being a science. One cannot mess around when it comes to botulism!
I’m not going to try to tell you how to can. I’m more concerned with “can” being used as a verb, when there are no cans involved whatsoever. I will give you my grandma’s recipe for chili sauce, though. It’s a family favorite. Can it at your own risk.
3 quarts peeled, chopped tomatoes
3 cups chopped celery
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped green pepper
1/4 cup salt
Stir together and chill overnight. Drain ingredients in a colander and place them in a large pot. Then add:
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
11/2 teaspoons pepper
11/2 teaspoons pickling spices
1 cup white vinegar
Bring everything to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Ready to can.
You can buy prepared pickling spice at the grocery store, or you can easily combine the spices to make your own.
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
1 tablespoon whole allspice
1 tablespoon coriander
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon dill seeds
2 teaspoons cardamom seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon whole cloves
5 crushed bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick, crushed
Combine ingredients in a jar and shake well. They will keep in an airtight container for up to a year.
Have questions? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail her c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.