Blue Heron Local Cuisine

Cooking, Eating, and Drinking on the North Shore (and beyond)

The Obsessive Canner and the Zombie Apocalypse May 27, 2009

Filed under: Preserving the harvest — blueheronlocal @ 2:25 pm
Tags: , , ,

[New York Times, we are way ahead of you.]


It could just be that I’m an obsessive personality. Instead of buying a complete bike, I buy a frame and spend 2 years tinkering to get 10 speeds out of a 28-speed gruppo.  Instead of waiting and saving for a hot tub, I drag an old one out of someone’s yard so it can beautify mine. A pattern has been established.


So, I think about BPA being in all of that “organic” food I buy in (plastic-lined metal) cans, and decide to buy some nice, inert Ball jars and a pressure canner. Maybe you can see where this is headed.


I need my cans of ingredients ready to go (I’m too ADD to start things like beans days ahead, and only losers with no friends can reliably plan meals 2 or 3 days out all the time). We got the bigger of the 2 Presto models.  It’s bulkier to store than the little one, but the small one is close to useless, and since you only have to fill it with 4 inches of water to pressure can, it isn’t like the bigger one takes longer or anything. I store clean jars and other supplies in it when it isn’t on the stove turning its unresolved childhood rage into safe, preserved food. Ahem.


The Presto canner was about $120, and it will last you the rest of your life if you replace the rubber parts every decade or so, so I’m not counting it in my figuring. Your first jars of beans will cost you around $1.30 per can assuming you buy jars and dry beans. Quart jars and pint jars cost about the same, so I run 2 batches – quarts of chick peas for hummus, pints for salads or side dishes – to increase our initial economy in this venture.


The next time I use a mason jar to can beans, the new lid (always use a new lid) and the beans will cost me under 30 cents. If it doesn’t break, I’ll use each jar dozens of times. Even recyclables are trash, after all.


I hit the hundred-jar mark some time ago, meaning I think the process is officially paying for itself. We left Trader Joe’s about 1 bag lighter than usual, too. While I was supposed to be grading papers, I made blood orange marmalade (you only need jars and a big pot for this – you don’t need to pressure can acid foods) at a cost of like $3 per pint, including the cost of the canner and the ingredients and jars. 


This never happens. Usually, my plan to get something cheaper or for nothing involves a ton of work, learning 87 new skills, and breaking even if I’m lucky.


So, with jars of black, cannellini, fava (mush, but okay for hummus) and pinto beans, chicken stock, chick peas, orange marmalade, lemon-lime hot pickle, and more stuffing my cabinets and mounting towards heaven, it has occurred to me that I’m well prepared for the Rapture, or the Zombie apocalypse if you insist on the vernacular terminology. No sugar-rush-headaches for me – I’m living on protein until they come upon me in the night and turn my brains into bean dip.


Then, I start to wonder – what if it’s my spider sense? What if, instinctually, I know the end is near, and I’m not just obsessive, but incredibly wise and attuned to the vibrations of the universe?

I’m going to put up some apple pie filling, and maybe some meat sauce, just in case.


-no egrets


4 Responses to “The Obsessive Canner and the Zombie Apocalypse”

  1. flyingtomato Says:

    Hmm–why have I never thought of canning beans that I’ve bought in bulk? Brilliant!!! No more plastic-lined cans, and no more buck-a-can for organic beans. Good goddess, woman, it’s great! And a good use for the 50-bazillion extra jars I have lying around.


  2. blueheronlocal Says:

    Our jars have been multiplying exponentially—but at least you can justify having them around 🙂 Oh and no egrets says to make sure you have enough liquid in the jar when canning beans.


  3. cb Says:

    I am so totally doing this now. Where is the best place to get the mason jars? Someplace locally or online?

    • blueheronlocal Says:

      You should be able to get mason jars at any good (large) hardware store. Look in their houseweares section. (I get mine at Dawson’s True Value in North Beverly, if that is helpful to you.)

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