I did it! I canned my first two jars this weekend. I made Pickled Peppers from a recipe book called Preserving the Harvest. The recipes in this book are super-easy (just a few ingredients) and each recipes makes only small batches. This was perfect for my test run.
I sterilized all the equipment, cut up the wonderful organic garden peppers, prepared the vinegar pickling broth, and then hot-water bath canned two pints. I did not use Hubby’s grandma’s canning pot – the pot is so huge, and I wanted to put up only the two pints, so I used my regular deep spaghetti pot. I put the little metal poached egg cups on the bottom of the pot and rested the poaching rack on it, then put the jars on the rack. It worked like a charm. It left the requisite inch or more of water at the bottom and plenty of boiling water around the jars.
The best moment was when I lifted out the jars and put them on the wooden board to cool. I heard the lovely PING as the jars sealed! I started jumping up and down. I shouted “I did it!” Hubby was enthroned on his recliner in the living room watching the endless fall football games. (I confess, I usually watch them too – I love football). He shouted, “What?” I shouted back “I pickled peppers?” Then it got very silly. “What? You picked a peck of pickled peppers?” And so on. I had to stop the nonsense by bringing him a plate of fresh oatmeal raisin cookies so he wouldn’t talk with his mouth full.
Normally when either of us undertakes a new project, Hubby and I work as a team. When we bought the riding mower/tractor, we read the instruction manual together and took turns driving around the farm on it to get the hang of it. When I used the cleaning feature on the professional oven for the first time, Hubby read the instructions and helped me get it right.
But this time I had to do it alone to get over my nerves. All those fears of poisoning my family or blowing up the house with an exploding Ball jar had to be dealt with.
I baked a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies for the fellas, and then suddenly I found myself coring and seeding the big bowl of peppers I’d picked…and the book was there….and I had all the ingredients…and before I knew it, I had canned my first little batch of pickled peppers.
I was surprised by how much the liquid has settled – it looks like it went down another half inch or quarter of an inch, leaving the top of the pepper (the bit sticking up) without liquid. According to the canning websites I looked at, this should be okay. I think I left a bit too much head space anyway.
Last night as I was checking on the jars, a wonderful thin happened. I had a sudden feeling like my grandma was standing next to me. I felt a rush of warmth and love, and it really felt as if she was standing next to me in the kitchen.
I have written before about my grandma Rudmann and how she was so special to me. I have a framed photo of her in my office (right) ; she is my inspiration and I always feel as if she’s my special guardian angel. What an amazing lady she was. She and her sisters came to America in 1922 and settled in the Bronx before they each married German immigrants and became citizens. She survived two bouts of cancer and lived to age 93. Funny, tough as nails, and I can still feel her huge, rib-cracking hugs and taste the powdered donuts my dad called Sinkas 9because they sank to the bottom of your stomach) that were her specialty. (Okay all my raw, vegan and vegetarian friends – don’t scold me, okay? Memories of childhood. I haven’t touched a donut since forever!)
I don’t remember this about her, but my big sister Mary said that my grandma loved to preserve food. She had a root cellar and a special pantry my dad built for her in the basement of her house in Bellerose. Mary said grandma canned tomato soup, fruit from the trees in her yard and all sorts of vegetables. Grandma grew up on a farm in the wine country of Germany. By the time I remember my grandma she was no longer canning, but I remember what a wonderful baker she was.
I was standing just to the right of the range, looking at the jars of pickled peppers, and I felt as if my grandma slipped her strong arm around my shoulders and gave me a big hug. It helped, I think that was wearing a perfume yesterday that both my mom and grandma wore – Windsong. That may have pulled the image up in my subconscious, but it was a wonderful moment all the same. Thanks, Grandma, for smiling at me and giving me that nudge to take another step from my past life as driven executive and my new life as a content rural woman.
Thank you to my buddy and neighbor Patty, my neighbor Annette (of Annie’s Gleanings, the blog in my sidebar) and Liz at the County Cooperative Extension office for all the encouragement.
Jeanne Grunert is a certified Virginia Master Gardener and the author of several gardening books. Her garden articles, photographs, and interviews have been featured in The Herb Companion, Virginia Gardener, and Cultivate, the magazine of the National Farm Bureau. She is the founder of The Christian Herbalists group and a popular local lecturer on culinary herbs and herbs for health, raised bed gardening, and horticulture therapy.