Monday, October 24, 2011

Over-Coming Fear With Strings Attached

For as long as I can remember, I have had an irrational fear in the kitchen. I'm ok with knives despite several nail-biting viewings of films such as Halloween and Scream. Perfectly calm with gas burners, electrical appliances and even though I have thrown a few across the room after poor performance- can openers do not produce the shivers. Nope, for me it's the pressure cooker. I have even been known to flee the room and watch Star Trek re-runs with hubby on Thanksgiving when my dear mother-in-law decided to use the dreaded hissing pot for cooking black-eyed peas. I have never been witness to a pressure cooker induced disaster but the combination of the steam engine noise, rattling weights and old stories of pot roast being scrubbed from the ceiling has been enough for me to refuse it's use.
Imagine my sadness when I learned that if I wished to can veggies, including my husband's favorite- green beans I would need to use a Pressure Canner. After much success with jams, pickles and salsas, I had convinced myself that being a hot-water bath canner would be enough for me. Another sign was that I was not able to grow or obtain any fresh green beans this summer. Satisfied with my accomplishments, I took a trip to the Farmers Market last Tuesday. To my surprise and amazement I was able to pick up a bushel of beautiful green beans. I quickly shoved them into my trunk never considering how I would preserve them. After unloading into my kitchen it hit me, short of meeting a hungry vegetarian hoarde all craving green beans- I would have to can them.
Brave I am not, but stubborn I am and with that in mind I viewed several on-line videos on pressure canning and since none of them included explosions or severe scalding burns, I headed to Wal-Mart and bought a pressure canner. After several hours of prayer, reading safety instructions repeatedly- I proceeded. At each step I found myself fearing less...ok so the first batch I did sit in the dining room which is a safe distance from my stove- but the point is I did it and by the time I reached my 5th load I was an old pro.
Basking in my success, I tried a bite out of the single non-sealing jar (there were 22 quarts). The taste was fabulous, yet as I reached the last chew a new sensation appeared~Ptooi! What had begun as what warriors describe as the sweet taste of victory became something akin to chewing on a rope that had come unraveled. Strings gagged me as I realized, they call them string beans for a reason. While planning out my nearest exits and the probability that I would experience severe steam burns should the canner explode- I forgot to string my green beans.
My dear husband has proclaimed them a wonderful source of fiber, while he choked down a bowl that night during dinner. So I over cam the fear of the pressure canner, learned that you must string your string beans and that my husband will suffer through much to ensure that I focus on the win rather than the loss.
BTW~ the next day my local farm stand had stringless beans for sale. I bought 10 lbs and got 9 quarts for when company or those who prefer other options for their daily fiber come to dinner.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

First let me be clear~ I am not a Chile Head. In fact i'm such a wimp when it comes to all things spicy that I don't even eat salsa on my chips when we go for Mexican. My son, sister and several others that I love, despite questioning their good sense, are BIG fans of all things hot.
I heard about a new favorite in the foodie world called Siriacha and thought it just might make a unique gift for the spicy set. Canning is easy, but like standing upright on a sphere turning round in space- there are some simple rules you must follow or trouble ensues. One of those rules being that acid must be present for canned items to remain safe. I mean nothing says, "Happy Holidays!" like botulism and a trip to the E.R. Siriacha is typically not high enough in acid to be canned safely, but thanks to a fellow blogger, the following recipe was just what I needed.

As we speak, about 2lbs of peppers, a mix of Sweet Reds, Red Bananas, Red chilies (either Thai or Cayenne) and few Habineros thrown in to make it interesting) are marinating in vinegar with about 15 cloves of Garlic....