I start with half-pint Mason jars, as these are a nice size to gift someone; then as the season progresses I switch to pint jars and even quart jars towards the end of harvest. Last year I ended up with 36 assorted jars of canned produce.
Following is a summary of the water bath canning instructions found at www.freshpreserving.com. My own method varies a little, but you should check out their website for the details.
1) Read recipe and assemble equipment and ingredients. I usually chop up a mixture of my peppers, red onions, garlic, cukes for fire pickles, and everything but cukes for the hell peppers. For my pickling brine I use vinegar, water, and pickling or kosher salt (table salt yellows brine). I also put a clove of garlic and a quarter teaspoon of pickling spice in the bottom of each jar.
2) Check jars, lids, and bands for proper functioning to prevent sealing issues or jar breakage. Wash all in hot, soapy water, rinse well, and dry bands.
3) Heat home canning jars in hot (not boiling) water until ready for use to prevent them from breaking when hot food is added. Leave lids and bands at room temperature.
4) Prepare boiling water bath by filling large pot or canner half full with water and simmer while covered with lid until jars are filled and placed in canner.
5) Prepare tested preserving recipe using fresh produce and other quality ingredients.
6) Remove a jar from the hot water (with jar lifter or tongs), and empty water from jar. Fill hot jars one at a time with prepared ingredients leaving recommended headspace. Remove air bubbles.
7) Clean Mason jar rim and threads, center lid on jar, apply band, and fingertip tighten. Place filled jars in canner making sure water covers jars by 1 to 2 inches. Cover, and bring to a rolling boil.
8) Process jars in the boiling water for the required time, adjusting for altitude. Then turn off the heat, remove the canner lid, and allow jars to stand in canner for 5 minutes.
9) Remove jars from canner and set upright on a towel undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours. Bands should not be retightened as this may interfere with the sealing process.
10) Check jar lids for seals. Lids should not flex up and down when center is pressed. Remove bands. Try to lift lids off with your fingertips. If the lid cannot be lifted off, the lid has a good seal. If a lid does not seal within 24 hours, the product can be immediately reprocessed or refrigerated and consumed promptly. Label and store in a cool, dry, dark place up to one year.
I find that the pickled stuff is ready to eat in three weeks but tastes better if it cures longer. This pickling/canning method can be used on many different veggies like green beans, asparagus, summer squash, and even watermelon rinds, and they can be made spicy by just adding hot pepper to the mix.
Hot peppers may also be saved by drying them. Simply use a needle and thread to string them up, and hang till dry. When dry they can be used as a holiday decoration and later in cooking. Hot peppers have many health benefits, but if you ever find yourself in need of an antidote, slowly drink a glass of milk which will help break the bonds capsaicin forms on your nerve receptors. For those of you that like it HOT, you’ll find an amazing variety of hot peppers to read up about at www.tinyurl.com/y94y7d3a. Enjoy!
~ Michael Romano, a Great Barrington, MA, resident for almost 40 years, is a retired chef and also enjoys writing. He and his wife, Susan, worked at the now-closed Kolburne School in New Marlborough, MA, for many years. Look for his fishing articles in this and previous issues of Our BerkshireTimes magazine.
Read this article in the Sept-Oct 2017 issue of Our BerkshireTimes Magazine.