Alfred Reed Bishop and Doris William Butler

The picture above is the very tap root of Bishop's Homegrown/Face Of The Earth Seed. My grandparents shortly after moving to Pekin Indiana from Greensburg KY in 1947 where they purchased the farm that is now Bishop's Homegrown. This picture was taken in Pekin in front of the old co-op next to the old railroad depot, neither of which exist today.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Kimi’s Redneck School for the Domestically Challenged

So, Alan has been telling me for a while that I need to start posting to the blog, as he talks about me, and what we do on the farm, and yet no one has seen or heard from me since we started the blog, thusly that makes me make believe. However, here I sit. I had an epiphany this past weekend while doing some canning of my own on the farm and helping my Daddy do some canning here at home, and now born of this epiphany is Kimi’s Redneck School for the Domestically Challenged. This will be hopefully a weekly, maybe bimonthly installment on the blog. The idea being that I will to the best of my ability break down ‘domestic’ tasks for today’s young women and men in a bare bones simplistic way with little tips and tricks that I pick up as I learn these things. Let me clarify, domestic tasks do not include “this is how your run the sweeper” or “this is how you wash the dishes”. The domestic tasks I speak of are things that our grandparents, great grandparents, and great Aunts and Uncles did to survive when times were tough. They made their own clothes and blankets, they made their own soap, they grew and preserved their own food. Most of the time with out the assistance of the luxuries we have today such as chemical fertilizer, and commercial preservatives, or industrial machines, and most definitely with out the aid of the local department store. Trips to the department store were a once in a great while thing when times were tough, Seeing as how ecomonic times are what they are now, and things are getting tough again, I believe its time to revisit these tried and tested practices with the younger generation. This is by no means a ‘how to…’ this is just a tool to get you started. You will be learning as I learn, and hopefully you’ll gain the confidence to seek out those in your life who can really teach you how to do these things.

Adventures in Canning

What better way to start off than with Canning, as I said it is what inspired me to start this article for the blog. My family has been canning for as long as I can remember. When my Mommy went into labor with my sister she was canning green beans, and caring for my little brother who was just starting to break out with the chicken poxs. My great Aunt Jean who baby sat us as children, can’s everything she can, green beans, corn, pickles, beats, etc. I remember standing over the stove with Daddy on a chair stirring the blackberry juice making jelly at around the age of 7 or 8. These are all great memories, but until the couple of years I’ve not really actively pursued participating in canning as an adult. But these times as they are its become a necessity.

Last year my Aunt Jean taught my sister and I how to make her famous dill pickles. Aunt Jean makes other pickles, but dill is our favorite. This year I attempted it by myself, and I have to say it was a success. First thing is first when pickling anything, when you’re learning, it’s okay to use a mix…You can try actual pickling recipes once you’ve got the method down.

We use Mrs. Wage’s Kosher Dill Pickle Mix as our brine. You will also need powdered Alum, vinegar, and water. A table spoon of Alum to your brine will help to keep your pickles crisp. You’ll also need jars, I recommend pint jars for hamburger chips and quart jars for spears, and lids and rings for your jars. Though its not required, I highly recommend a jar clamp for aiding in the moving around of hot jars, and a lid and ring magnet, and a jar funnel. You will also want three kettles, one to heat your brine in, the second with a rack of some form in the bottom to hot water bath your jars to insure proper ‘pickling’ and sealing, and a third to sanitize your lids and rings in. Finally, you’ll need cucumbers, the recipe calls for between 9 and 11 lbs of cucumber.

Preparing your work area is probably the single most important thing to do before you start canning. You want your work area to be clean, sanitary, and uncluttered. You need room to work as you’re going to be dealing with scalding hot jars and liquids. After your work area is prepared its time to prepare your jars and lids, it’s always best to boil your clean jars for about 5 minutes as it will help to kill any remaining germs, the same applies to lids and rings.

Lay a towel out on the counter top in the area in which you plan to work.. Set your jars in place. Clean and cut your cucumbers and pack them into the jars. Packing a jar is a special skill that is only acquired through time and practice. This is one where the older folks in your family can show you how it should be done. Back during the depression they packed their jars tight so as to use less material and resources but to preserve as much food as possible at the same time.

Mix your brine according to the package directions. Again, start with a mix, just to get your feet wet. Add the table spoon of Alum to your brine, and heat till dissolved. While your brine is heating, turn on your kettle with the rack in the bottom with enough water in it to come about halfway up your filled jars. You want this water to be brought up to a gentle boil.

Once your brine is ready, using a jar funnel fill the packed jars up to the bottom lip on the rim of the jar. Once your jars are filled using a clean moistened paper towel, wipe off the rim of the jars, and using the lid magnet place lids and rings on the jars and tighten. Do be very careful not to touch the seal or the bottom side of the lid. If you do, you can compromise both your seal, and the integrity of the product in the jar, as though you are being as careful as possible, you never know what you may have accidentally laid your hands in during the course of this process.

Once your jars are lidded, place only as many as what will fit with out clanking together onto the rack of of the hot water the bath. The rack is necessary as it keeps the water bubbles from getting trapped under the jars.. Cover and let boil gently for the time allotted on your mix package. For the mix that we use, its five minutes for pints and ten minutes for quarts.

When the boil is complete using your jar clamp, gently and carefully remove the hot jars from the bath and set on the towel to cool. Then repeat until all jars have been through the hot water bath. DO NOT bang the jars together as they could explode. DO NOT touch the button on the tops of the lids either, this could create a false seal that will fail and your product will go rancid on you.
Finally…Listen for the pops. As each jar seals it makes a popping sound. I count the number of pops. Sometimes sealing can take several hours, so don’t freak out should not all your jars seal with in a few hours. Any that doesn’t move to the refrigerator and eat them first.

So as you can see there really is nothing to canning pickles. Pickling is an easy and quick way to get your feet wet in the wide world of canning and preserving your own foods. Next time we’ll discuss canning green beans, and likely after that we’ll delve into adventures in jelly making.

Happy Canning y’all!


LindaM said...

This is great Kim! Its nice to know you really exist first of all but I love the idea too. Question about the said to fill the kettle half way. Do you add more water later to cover the jars by an inch? I might have missed that part.

Mrs Mayfinn Farmer said...

LOVE it! :)

naturalwellness said...

I love this idea I just discovered this blog recently but im loving it more and more each day. consider me a student of "Kimi’s Redneck School for the Domestically Challenged"

Kimi Marie said..., we dont cover our jars with water, we use the same principle as a pressure canner. Do not let the water come up more than 3/4 the way up the jars, just cover the kettle with a lid and let the steam do the rest.

Steph, thank you!

NaturalWellness, welcome to our little corner of cyber space. Hopefully I can be a useful contributer to the site, as I learn, I will pass on the knowledge to you all!


Mary said...

Thank you for providing such a great service for those of us who are domestically challenged. I never learned to can until a few years ago..yet I knew how to make home made pasta and duck foie gras terrine by the time I was in high school. Talk about different priorities. Canning is one of those survival tools because when the power goes out, canned food is the only thing that survives....

As you delve into canning, any variety recommendations would be appreciated...especially in terms of beans, since some seem to be better 'canners' (in terms of taste) than others.

Look forward to more of your installments.