From what I can gather, canning with your mother or grandmother leaves you scarred for life.
I regularly run into middle-aged to older women who, when the topic of canning is broached, respond with, “I hate canning. I canned every summer with my [insert older female relative] when I was a kid, and I’ll never do that again.”
Canning and weeding leave an impression on kids, and it’s usually not a good one.
I have no childhood experience with canning, so I was excited about the prospect of preserving my own food when I first learned about canning. Now that I do it, I can see how it could easily be overwhelming and turn into the stuff of childhood nightmares, especially in mass quantities.
To be clear, canning is time consuming. But I don’t think it has to be all that bad.
My challenge related to canning is that I work full time, and tomatoes wait for no man. I can’t schedule the tomatoes to ripen on Sunday so I can have lots of time to can. I have to make it work whenever they’re ready, even if it’s on a weeknight.
The first time I canned I was up until midnight (on a weeknight!). That really makes canning lose its luster quickly, so this year I came up with a new plan.
Spread the work out over two nights.
Profound, I know. But it was an eye-opener for me.
I’m thinking specifically of canning tomato products here, like salsa. Here’s how I do it now:
Assemble, chop and otherwise prepare all ingredients except the tomatoes (peppers, onions, vinegar, spices, etc.). Put everything in the pot you’ll cook it in the next day, cover and refrigerate.
Blanch, peel and chop tomatoes.
Add to the rest of the ingredients and cook down.
The idea behind splitting it up this way is that you get all the non-tomato prep work out of the way the first night. Tomatoes don’t like to be refrigerated, so you save those for be second night when you can do all the remaining steps right away. The ingredients you prep on Night 1 won’t be hurt by a day in the fridge, so you get them out of the way early.
Separating out the work like this has really made canning more manageable for me. I still have to plan for it, but at least this way I have a good chance of getting a full night’s sleep.