It Takes a Village To Can a Quart

Most people have a bucket list. Challenging, fun things like repelling the Grand Canyon, Climbing Mt. Everest, hiking the Appalchian Trail, or canning a few quarts of tomatoes.

Today, for the first time in my 54 years, I chose the latter.

I should have attempted Everest.

Actually, “The Canning” was a group effort. My two canning friend experts supervised the event.

Since there was no dishwasher in the farmhouse, we hand washed several mason jars. Since there was no room on the counters, we spent approximately 57 minutes clearing them.

“Pauline, the jars are dirty,” my helpful husband stated after our dishwashing marathon. (By the way, he was not part of the canning committee. Just an opinionated onlooker.)

So we spent another 28 minutes rewashing the jars. While we washed, we heated approximately enough water on the stove to bathe the Dallas Cowboys.

“Canning’s not hard, Pauline. You just mix the tomatoes and run them through the food processor. Then you pour them into jars. You heat the jars on the stove in a water bath and you’re done,” my friend Sue said.

Easy for her to say. She left.

Then Sue’s husband, Bill, and I cut 20 pounds of tomatoes which took approximately 49 minutes.

I settled on a soup base with okra. We looked it up and Bill read the directions.

“It says we have to cook the tomatoes.”

Sue arrived home. “Why are you cooking the tomatoes?”

“The recipe says so.”

She read the recipe out loud. “I see you decided to change the recipe we agreed on.” Her eyebrow lifted as she spoke. Bill and I slinked away, pretending to wipe counters.

I answered. “I figured they’re all about the same. How long do we cook it?”

“About fifteen minutes’.

After we processed the tomatoes and rewashed the counters, we ladled the tomato mixture into a pan on the stove. “What are all these pans for?”

“One is for the bath, one for sanitizing the jars, and a smaller one for the lids.”

I wondered if they’d forgotten about the absence of the modern appliances.

“How much water do I need for the water bath?”

Bill answered. “A lot. But first you have to sanitize the jars.”

I started to add the squeaky-clean-jars to the bathtub water we’d been heating for over an hour. The kitchen temp topped 105. “Don’t put the jars in yet!” Bill shouted. “You have to heat them as you pour the tomato mixture!”

“How do you know that?”

Bill and Sue chimed in together, “We read the directions!”

“Wait a minute,” Sue said. “Did you say you added okra? If you did you up the time to 45 minutes.”

“Yeah, and what’s the altitude? That changes the time too.”

“How much headroom do we leave?” I wondered why they were talking about their car.

“The recipe says one inch,” Bill stated as he munched on an apple. It had been four long hours since lunch.

We used tongs to submerge the the jars in the Cowboys’ bath and a special tool to take the jars in and out of the bath. We bathed the jars for an additional 45 minutes. Finally, we poured the fragrant mixture into glass jars through a special canning funnel, placed the lids on and waited. They popped.

All six of them.

After about nine hours of manpower, $20 worth of tomatoes and and a hundred dollars worth of equpment, I figured we could have eaten at Carabba’s three times. The whole bucket-list-canning-adventure struck me as hilarious. No wonder pioneer people died young.

“It takes a village to can a quart of tomatoes!” I spouted as my belly shook. We all laughed.

After we gained our composure, Sue took out a Sharpie, “What are you going to call this?”

“Village soup, of course. And when I pull out my soup, I’ll call you at your place in New Jersey and you can eat yours, too.”

Some bucket list adventures are just about friends.

And it’s worth it.






2 Comments on "It Takes a Village To Can a Quart"

  1. Melinda Stortenbecker says:

    I Love, Love, Love this!! I can so relate – you should try shucking corn off the cob to freeze (plan on taking a bath and shampooing your hair when it’s over). I’m sharing this to some ‘canning’ friends of mine.

    Have a wonderfully blessed day.

  2. PaulIne Hylton says:

    Thanks Melinda! I think our corn will be Barbie-Doll-Size so I will have to wait on that one!

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