The whole house smells mighty good as I write these words. I have a small turkey stewing in my 18-gallon roaster/slow cooker–the big bird, reserved for Thanksgiving, when my dear friends Jean and Curt will be visiting, is still in the freezer, awaiting the big day.
Since my food-preservation odyssey began, I use that big appliance so often that I just keep it on the counter. I’ve had it for years, and it sat gathering dust in a closet forever; truth to tell, I was disappointed in the thing, since, being a naive cook at the time, I purchased it to roast–well–turkey. I know all you veteran cooks out there see this coming–the roaster roasts, all right, but it doesn’t brown the meat or poultry in the process. Who wants to eat a white turkey, no matter how juicy? Not I. So I put the thing away and forgot about it–until a couple of years ago, when I got on a bone-broth kick. Out came the oversized crockpot, and it proved to be just the ticket. These days, I use it for making stock and huge batches of soup to put up for those snowy nights this winter. (Nothing like a good, hearty chicken stock when the cold-and-flu season is in high gear.)
So, why am I cooking a turkey in the thing, you may be asking, quite understandably?
Because I plan to can the meat for use this winter–it will be great in casseroles, soups or just warmed up and served with some of my homemade cranberry sauce. And once the turkey is ready to be put into Mason jars and pressure-canned, I will strain the broth–bye-bye white turkey skin–and can that, too. I’m what they call an ingredient canner, since most of what I put up is meant to be paired up with something else. It will be lovely, after a long day of writing, to whip up an easy, nutritious meal. (If you’ve canned your own food, you know that the quality can’t be beaten by anything on the shelves of your local supermarket.)
I am by no means an expert at this enterprise, mind you. I know how to use a pressure canner safely–for years I was terrified of the things: we’ve all heard the horror stories–and I am very, very careful to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter. Although today’s canners have extra safety features, there are dangers–a plugged valve, for instance, can still result in a nasty explosion, the kind that requires an unscheduled kitchen remodel, at best, and very possibly a long stint in the burn ward. Not a happy prospect. I had to learn to trust myself to concentrate on each task–I have ADD, so concentration is a challenge–but I do it, step by step. My only regret, where stocking the pantry is concerned, is that I let fear stop me for so long. Canning is a homey pleasure, and the satisfaction I derive from it is well worth all that paying attention. It’s nice to know there is plenty of food in the house, lest we get one of our famous wind or ice storms, or simply find ourselves snowed in, since I live in the country.
Another great thing about my newest hobby is this: I don’t have to wait for harvest time to tackle a batch of this, that or the other thing. I recently re-canned tomato sauce, for instance, having purchased several gigantic cans of the stuff–who knew? I buy chicken drumsticks, thighs and breasts on sale, and can them. The drumsticks and thighs look pretty unappetizing in the jars–which is why they’re usually referred to, at least on YouTube, as ‘ugly chicken’–but they are absolutely delicious. My next project, after the turkey and broth/stock will be elderberry syrup, which is a great cold and flu preventative–with the added benefit of tasting wonderful on pancakes or ice cream.
So, I admit it. My name is Linda and I am powerless over canning.