When it comes to good old-fashioned food preservation (i.e., canning), I am a newly-fledged “expert.” In other words, I’ve done it once. Well, twice, actually—one large batch of chokecherry jelly back in August, and one small batch of salsa this week. Every jar of which sealed properly, thank you very much.
The jelly, or at least the two jars I have personally consumed, was just right. The salsa is perhaps not outstanding, but is certainly acceptable. Or so I am informed by those who eat the stuff. Personally, I’ll stick with jelly.
These modest culinary successes please me greatly, but they are also slightly embarrassing. The embarrassment stems from the fact that for years I never even considered trying to make jelly or can anything. I thought it was too hard. It seemed to be one of those complicated, arcane processes that other people knew how to do but I would never be able to master, especially considering my less-than-stellar abilities in the kitchen.
This belief persisted despite—or possibly because of—all the times as I kid I watched my mother produce batches of jelly and jar after jar of pickles. Or possibly it was based on my experience as a bread baker. Today, I make genuinely excellent bread, but that was a hard-won skill. I remember too many loaves that turned out two inches high and impervious to the sharpest knife, because I used water that was too hot and killed the yeast. They weren’t exactly edible, but they would have made excellent paving material.
So I’ve always assumed canning would require many similar failures and a long apprenticeship. (Of course, there’s always the possibility that it does, and that what I’ve accomplished thus far has simply been beginner’s luck.)
In truth, though, the processes of canning and making jelly aren’t as complicated as I thought. Time-consuming, yes. Messy, absolutely. But not really that hard, particularly if you have a mentor available to answer questions and give helpful advice. (Thanks, Mother!) Once again, I’ve discovered that a new and seemingly mysterious project isn’t as difficult as it seems from the outside. It merely requires starting at the beginning and following the directions, one step at a time.