Saturday, August 14, 2010

We CAN Do!!!

On August 14, Master Canner, Wyatt Whiteman of 1760's Farmhouse in Fairfield, CT met in Cornwall at Local Farm to impart his wisdom to 15 canning wanna-be's. As one happy participant noted, "The 'Yes, We CAN Can' workshop was just that; a demystification of the canning process and an affirmation of our ability to go home and can whatever. Even though there was little formal instruction and we were all so busy doing various parts of the process that no one had time to step back and observe all the steps, the group accomplished SO much working in such a primitive set-up, I now feel confident that I could find and follow a recipe to can almost anything." Wyatt recommends the Ball Blue Book Guide to Home Canning and Freezing for recipes and instructions. Other informational/experiential tidbits we gained were...

Even after carefully washing and examining jars for chips and cracks, sometime you lose one.

We learned that pre-boiling beets and scalding tomatoes and peaches made them much easier to peel with next to no loss of produce. The skins just slipped off with minimal effort. However over-scalding fruit cooked it and made a sloppy mess.

Wyatt emphasized packing the jars very tightly so that they would still be full of fruit even after it had cooked, softened, and settled into place. We used knife handles and plastic spoons to release as many air pockets as possible so that the jars would not have a large empty space at the top after processing.
To ensure a good seal, one must leave the specified space between the produce in the jar and the CLEAN top rim. Carefully wipe off any spillage before putting on the lids and rings.

One can can acidic fruits (like tomatoes or peaches) and anything pickled with vinegar (like our dilly beans and pickled beets) with the hot water bath method. Everything else must be canned with a pressure canner. Wyatt recommends heating the loaded canner until steam has been pouring out of the top for ten minutes, then put on the pressure valve and start timing according to your recipe. A big fan of pressure canning method, Wyatt says "It uses half the time, half the energy, and a great deal less worry."

We discovered the truth in the adage, "Many hands make light work."

Working with others makes the job so much more fun AND productive!

Wyatt's DVD, A Visual Guide to Canning, is available for $12 from For other Motherhouse workshops and events, visit