Eat Your Veggies
These last few weeks I had been feeling pretty satisfied with my progress in putting away the garden goodness for the winter. But there was still one thing nagging at me, well over a dozen things actually, tall leafy green things – the kale forest that stood so proudly in the garden. The best way to preserve it for winter is to can it, and since kale is a low-acid food it needs to be canned in the pressure canner. My husband had canned a half dozen jars of kale as an experiment last summer, and they made such delicious greens over the winter that we decided this was the way to go. After the frenzy of canning and freezing the last few weeks, my to do list had grown pretty short, and I could no longer ignore the kale staring me in the face every time I went up to the garden. The only thing preventing me from getting around to canning it was my fear of the pressure canner. Until now I’ve done all of my canning using a water bath canner, but that method can only be used for canning fruits and foods that are high in acid. I had been canning things like applesauce, jam, plum butter, tomato sauce, tomato soup, salsa, chutneys, and pickles for several years using the water bath canner. But I couldn’t safely can the kale in the water bath canner, and the freezer was already reaching maximum capacity. It was finally time to take my canning game up a notch and get over my fear of the pressure canner.
It was a beautiful sunny weekend morning, the perfect day to set up my outdoor canning station on the back deck and get to work. I picked a big garden trug full of kale and began spraying the leaves with the garden hose to get any bugs off of them. Then I removed the tough inner rib and gave them a rough chop. As I worked, I soon had a curious audience of onlookers. Lil’ Red Rooster, Millie, Salt-n-Pepa all gathered around my work station gazing up at me as if to say “surely with this bounty of kale there was a treat to be had?” And indeed there was, I am a sucker for those feather-footed Little Ones. After blanching the kale and getting it packed in the jars, I was ready for the scary part. I fired up the propane burner and set the pressure canner on top of the burner. I watched anxiously. I began to have flashbacks of my college chemistry lab and a Bunsen burner mishap. The propane burner was blazing away. Loudly. In the interest of safety I thought perhaps it was time to put in a call to my husband to make sure I had the valve opened the proper amount. Good thing I did, as I was quickly, albeit calmly advised that it should not sound as loud as a jet engine, and I better turn it down pronto.
After another several minutes of watching anxiously, I put in another support call, this time to my mom-in-law, the canning master of the family. After a quick refresher course, I was feeling better about this whole undertaking. Now all I had to do was watch, wait, set the timer, oh and watch and wait some more. By lunch time I had finished, and I had 8 pint jars of kale to show for my efforts. I was strangely exhilarated, almost as if I had jumped out of an airplane or some similarly daring adventure sport that I would certainly never partake in. Pressure canning was enough excitement for me! A few days later I made a batch of marinara sauce in the pressure canner just to reconfirm what I had just learned, and now I am happy to say that pressure canning is not so scary after all and actually is kinda fun.