Many different produce items are currently ripe in our corner of the world, so we had a wide variety of tasks to complete, and despite temperatures in the 90s and considerable humidity, we fired up Marjorie the Margin Gem to do the canning. First, we quickly canned the small batch of sweet pickles that my mother had been working on for the last two weeks. She used my great-grandmother's recipe, which all of my dad's side of the family is quite fond of. While they were in the canner, we started making pectin out of the unripe Jonathan apples which we plucked from the broken branches of my favorite apple tree in our orchard. We also put a kettle of Roma tomatoes from my mother-in-law on the stove to cook down for homemade ketchup. Then, we canned green beans from my sister-in-law's garden, and began to work on canning the pears from the tree in our orchard. All of this kept the Margin Gem's cooktop quite full.
|A very busy Margin Gem cookstove pressure|
canning and water bath canning at the same time.
Notice in these two photos that the Margin Gem is accommodating seven vessels.
|Things had to move once the pressure canner reached the |
I'm terrible at guessing quantities of food to be canned, and I frequently miss my guess when it comes to how much fruit it will take to fill the canner. Therefore, one of the things that I really like about using the wood cookstove for water bath canning is the reservoir. If I have more fruit prepared than I can actually fit in the canner, what I've taken to doing is going ahead and filling the extra jar with the fruit and boiling syrup, putting the lid on it, and then placing it in the hot water in the reservoir. This way, the jar won't seal prematurely (like it would if you were open-kettling), and I'm quite sure that the high temperature of the reservoir prevents any bacteria growth in the short time before the jar of fruit is removed to the canner once the initial batch of jars is finished processing.
I have read that if your stove's water reservoir is capable of reaching the boiling point, you can just do your water bath canning in the reservoir. So far, the water in the Margin Gem's reservoir has not gotten hot enough to boil.
|The final products ready to be washed and carried down to the|
fruit room. It isn't a large number of total jars, and they don't
include the ketchup yet because we were not finished with it at
the time of the photo.
Everything worked according to what I read at the site, but one thing puzzles me. The pectin gelled like it was supposed to when I tested it in the rubbing alcohol, and when I put it in the jars, it poured like honey. However, now that it has been canned and allowed to cool, it is almost as runny as water, so I'm a little concerned about it. I also have no idea how to use it. I was able to find directions for that at this link: http://www.pickyourown.org/makeyourownpectin.htm. I think I'll start by using the proportions for Certo and see what happens. I'd better make a batch of jelly with it as soon as possible in order to find out whether it is going to work. If the jelly is successful, I'd like to make more because commercial pectin has become so expensive. If any of my readers have experience with this and can offer advice, please do!
Another thing that I wondered about frequently during our weekend was energy efficiency. While we had the cookstove fired, we had the kitchen shut off from the rest of the house, but we had the air conditioning going. Of course, it ran nearly constantly after the stove had been going for a while. So, would it have been more energy efficient to use the gas stove? In some ways, I think the gas stove throws an equal amount of heat into the house, and there is no way that we could have had any more than four pots in use at once when using it. Also, when the cookstove is being fired, it is heating lots of hot water for us. I don't know how one would figure this out, but it is a question that intrigues me.
At any rate, the forecast for the next several days shows much, much cooler weather on the way. It doesn't look like we'll be needing the air conditioning anymore in the foreseeable future, so there won't be any wondering which method of canning will be the most energy efficient.