Learning to Can

Here are my finished jars: pickled jalapenos are on the left, and jalapeno jelly is on the right.

One of the skills I lack that I plan to learn is how to can food. I’ve had two successful canning experiences so far. My first experience, a few years back, was with pickled okra. My second try was just recently. I canned some jalapenos. I wanted to share that experience with you today to encourage anyone who, like myself, has felt intimidated by the whole concept of canning food.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I now have a large greenhouse. It’s ready to use, so I ordered seeds that need planting. My hope is that the greenhouse will be so successful this spring that I will need to can some of its production. 

I wear gloves to slice the jalapenos in preparation for canning. The gloves protect me from the pungent peppers.

With all this in mind, I decided to spend an afternoon getting my feet wet with this whole canning business. One of my local markets was selling sacks of jalapenos for a $1.00. It was the perfect opportunity to try some canning. 

Although I already had the equipment I needed for canning, I did not have the liquid fruit pectin I needed to make jalapeno jelly, nor did I have the “pickle crisp” packet for the pickled jalapenos. I had to find each at different grocery store, and they weren’t cheap. That was one thing I noted: Canning equipment and supplies are not cheap. I was grateful I already had the glass jars, lids, jar rack, and pot. 

Another thing I noted: Canning is very time-consuming. According to the two recipes I used, I should have been done in an hour and 36 minutes. They lied. It took me at least twice that long. By the time I got out everything I needed, boiled water and sanitized the jars and lids, cut up all the jalapenos, made the jelly and canned jalapenos, then processed the jars, I felt like I had been at it all day.

I pack the cans with peppers and then ladle the vinegar mixture into the jars for pickling.

I’m not saying all this to dissuade anyone. Canning is just like anything else. It takes practice, and it takes longer when you don’t know what you’re doing. I had never made jalapeno jelly or pickled jalapenos before. I had to really think about each step and read the instructions carefully. 

The next step is to process the jars by keeping them in boiling water for 10 minutes.

Also, I have to add that I can do nothing in my household without getting periodic interruptions. (You can read my post about multitasking here.) So, suffice it to say, I think once I get more experience with canning, it shouldn’t take me so long. 

However, I did learn that I need to make sure whatever day I choose to do some canning is pretty well clear of anything else. It’s not something you can simply “fit in” when you have a spare minute.  

The jalapeno jelly mixture, made of mostly sugar and jalapenos that have been chopped with the food processor, has to be boiled for 10 minutes.

The good news is that I was very pleased with the end products. The jalapeno jelly is wonderful. It set well, and I’ve used it on cream cheese for a great snack with crackers. It’s also a really good dip for chicken strips. The sliced jalapenos are also excellent. They are great for chili, nachos, sandwiches, etc. 

There are tons of recipes online for canned goods. I recommend searching for one that fits your fancy and that works for your needs. In case you are interested, here are the recipes I used for jalapeno jelly and pickled jalapenos.

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