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Sunday, August 3

Bad Day (R.E.M.)

Oh me, oh my.  Some days, you just need a re-start button!  For last week's canning day, I shared some of the basics of Food Preservation : Part I.  This week's canning day turned into a Shakespearean comedy, yet we recovered...eventually.  At the end of this post, you will find more resources on canning and a cooking / nutrition unit for canning-day school.
After being up most of the night with my little bugaboo, I was startled by the phone ringing....pretty late into the morning.  Nothing like a late start to throw off the whole day!  I came out of the bathroom to the sound of a train coming through my bedroom.  Well, that's how it sounded.  It was actually the sound of the closet organizer being ripped out of the wall, and everything coming down all at once.  FABULOUS.
Well, not much I could do about that by myself.  The kids and I pulled everything out of the closet and onto the bed.  Do you have any idea how much one little closet will hold???  Then we pulled out the mangled brackets and shelves and set them aside. 
We needed to get the vegetables prepped for canning.  Today, we were making tomato soup, dill pickles, peeled tomatoes, muffins, and lasagna.  Shortly into chopping cucumbers, I realized we were out of pickling spices and needed to run to the store.  Grandpa had just come down to see what he could do with the closet, so I left the boys with him.  A quick errand, right?  After the four inches of rain from the previous day (and still raining), the dirt roads were mud pits.  Naturally, the car got stuck.  WONDERFUL.
No - that's not my car, but it's how it felt.  Safe back at home, I vowed not to venture out again for the remainder of the day.  We started on the pickles, but the phone rang and my youngest put the lid on the brine to 'help.'  The brine boiled over something fierce and covered the stovetop in crusty salt.  Very fixable.  We got the pickles canned and into the water bath.  Yay! - crisis easily solved...this day was looking up! 
We started the tomato soup...chopped up tomatoes, peppers, carrots, celery, and spices all filled the house with a comforting aroma.  In the meantime, we blanched and peeled tomatoes from the garden.
With the tomatoes done, we pre-heated the oven and started the lasagna for dinner.  We also whipped up four batches of chocolate-chip buttermilk muffins (which freeze well) for quick breakfasts and snacks.  With the leftover ricotta cheese, we decided to make a couple of easy-cannoli to go with the lasagna.
It was time to cool down the soup and put it in the blender to get it good and smooth before canning it.  We had been cleaning the kitchen as we went, Grandpa was working on the closet, and the day was going well.  We put the soup into the blender, turned the blender on, and soup shot out of blender and all over the kitchen.  SUPER.  (This photo is from after I got up everything that was running onto the cabinets and floor below.  I've never understood people that take photos _before_ attending to the immediate crisis.) was going to blow!  I practiced that deep breathing stuff, cleaned it up, told the boys to go play in their rooms, and went to bum around on the computer for ten minutes.  At this point, the kitchen could, and would, wait.  *Deep breath*  *Deep breath*  Back in the kitchen, I jarred up the soup, set it in the water bath, and began cleaning up the mess.
Bad days happen.  As surely as the sun will shine, you will have bad days.  Without them as balance, though, it's not as easy to appreciate the good days.  In the middle of this mess, I was able to count on my family to help, and my friends to provide laughter and telepathic hugs.  Bad days aside, I am blessed.

More canning helps & a short unit :

An interesting tidbit about canning that I came across.....  

Why is it called “canning” if you are putting food in jars?

In 1795 Napoleon offered money to anyone who could find a way to preserve foods for his troops. Nicholas Appert of France found a way to preserve food in jars sterilized and sealed with pitch, and had a vacuum-packing plant by 1804. This process was a military "secret," but by 1810, Peter Durand of England had a patent for tin-plated iron to use in "canning." Canned rations were on the field at the Battle of Waterloo.

In 1812, a small plant in New York produced hermetically sealed oysters, meats, fruits and vegetables in cans. Durand introduced his can top America in 1818. Henry Evans patented a machine that made the tin cans, increasing production from 5-6 cans to 50-60 cans per hour.

In 1858, American John Mason invented the now famous glass jar for home canning. By the 1860's, the process time had dropped from six hours to 30 minutes, making canned foods commonplace. In the heating process, the sterilization destroys bacteria and enzymes that can cause spoiling, and the seal prevents new air or other organisms from entering.
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