Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Pruning: WHACK IT!

I recently taught a couple classes on pruning with the wonderful Stacie and the fabulous David, both from the grounds crew at work.  They were a hit!  We got some wonderful feedback on both of them, especially the Saturday one.  It was a blast!  I love teaching, especially when everyone is really engaged and learning, including me!  (Yep, I often learn things during the classes.  LOVE that part!)

During both classes, two things came up repeatedly: the question on just how much to cut back, and then surprise at the answer of most things get cut to the ground!  At least once I even heard audible gasps.

I know it's scary.  Terrifying even to some.  So I cracked jokes to put people at ease: "Know how to fix your fear of cutting it that hard? Shot of bourbon." ... "Get in touch with your inner Red Queen and off with it's head!" ... "It's okay, y'all. It's not going to die, but even if it did, it's not a puppy." 

Even so, I still sensed some reticence.  We explained that half the plant was underground, so cutting off the top really wasn't that big of a deal.  We explained about the energy transfer that goes on when a plant goes dormant - as each cold snap hits it, a plant slowly transfers it's growing energy into it's roots for winter, where it stays stored until it sprouts back out in spring, so you're really not cutting off anything of great importance.  And we explained that most of the stuff above was dead anyway, and even what wasn't would be hard pressed to sprout leaves anywhere but the top, and that would lead to the plant having to push all that energy aaaaaaaallll the way up those spindly branches, wasting a lot of it in the process.  But still, many found it hard to digest that you really do cut most things all the way to the ground. 

In an attempt to show everyone that it really will be okay, here are some before and after photos of our butterfly garden at work.  The before ones were taken last fall when it was rockin' in there.  The after ones were just last week and they show exactly what the garden looked like this time last year.  I'll try to remember to get a few of what it looks like this fall and post them as well, just to show that everything really is okay.

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And one last one, the most dramatic of the bunch.  See that 5+ foot tall 
firebush just behind the clump of grass?  It's gone!  Mama Nature's 
Winter took the other one further down the path with it.

This is all that's left...

So don't be afraid!  Grab some gloves, some pruners, and some bourbon, 
and head on out to WHACK SOME STUFF!  Later this year you'll be 
really glad you did.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Fermented Vegetables: Class Handout

Here is the handout for Neil Schmidt's Fermented Veggies class.  If you're interested in taking this class, keep an eye on The Natural Gardener's events calendar for the next time Neil will be presenting it.  


Lacto-Fermented Veggies
(Class Notes)
by Neil Schmidt
Education Coordinator & Presenter
The Natural Gardener

Brining the cabbage
Food Preservation:     Lacto-fermentation is due to Lactobacillus bacteria that produce lactic-acid in anaerobic environments.  These bacteria are found on the surfaces of vegetables and the digestive systems of humans and other animals. Lacto-fermentation not only retains the nutrients in the veggies but they are more easily digested since they have been slightly broken down. Most food processing for storage decreases the nutrient content of the food.  Lacto-fermentation allows for medium to long term storage without losing nutritional content.  It is also less resource and labor intensive than canning or freezing. On top of these benefits the microorganisms in lacto-fermentation are highly beneficial probiotics for intestinal health.

Whole cabbage leaf to hold down smaller pieces.
Traditional Fermented Foods:  Every culture on Earth has developed some types of fermented foods.  We will focus on the veggies!  Pickles, Sauerkraut, Kimchi and Escabeche are just the tip of the iceberg!

                                          Container w/ lid Fermentation vessel needs to be large enough to hold all veggies and at least 1-2” of brine above.
            Weight Ceramic, glass, sterilized rock, wedged chopsticks (anything to keep the veggies submerged)
            Large Metal Bowl Large enough to mix veggies with salt and squeeze thoroughly.
            Jar Funnel Helps keep the area cleaner and easier to pack jars.
            Large Spoon – Used to get veggies in and out of the fermenter and jars.

Fermentation vessels each with a different airlock system.

Process:  3 rules to keep in mind: Use fresh organic produce, keep it salty and submerged.  If you follow these tips your finished product will be delicious!
1)      Clean all equipment thoroughly.  It does not need to be sterilized.
2)      Cut veggies to desired size, place in large metal mixing bowl and coat with salt. Massage salt into veggies and squeeze out all liquid possible. Let sit for 2 hrs.
“The salt pulls water out of the cabbage (through osmosis), and this creates the brine in which the cabbage can ferment and sour without rotting.” Sandor Katz
(I prefer to leave the veggies in larger pieces so the bubbles can escape to the surface keeping the veggies from lifting out of the brine.)
Kahm yeast – edible but can impart off flavors. 
Increase salt content of brine and the issue should go away.
     3)      Squeeze out all liquid again.  Then spoon into fermentation vessel pouring brine on top to cover veggies. More brine can be made and added if there isn’t enough. 1 tsp-1 tbs/cup of cold clean water.
     4)      Cover the surface of veggies by layering whole cabbage leaves to keep pieces from floating to the top. Place weight on top on cabbage leaves.
     5)      When the desired sourness is achieved (5 days- 2wks) skim all growth from the surface of the brine and unpack fermentation vessel.  Pack into clean jars, fill with brine and refrigerate.

Kahm yeast again.
Contamination by mold or other harmful organisms is not very common when the 3 major tips above are followed.  If mold is found or the veggies have started to disintegrate and become mushy you will want to discard that batch!  Basically when in doubt through it out! However, strong smells do not indicate a problem.  I have found it always smells worse (stronger) during the ferment than once it is harvested. Kahm yeast is a common organism that can grow on the surface but presents no problem other than slightly off flavors.  If Kahm yeast becomes a problem make your brine a little saltier. If the batch seems too salty or vinegary the veggies can be rinsed and new less salty brine added to the jars when putting them in the fridge.

More information from Sandor Katz's website

Now go ferment something!

Thursday, May 17, 2018



See?! EGGS!!! Those ickle bitty white things in the cells near the bottom.

Here they are!

Late last month, the same day I brought those Africanized foragers home, I split one of my honeybee colonies into four (five counting the Africanized forager one). A couple weeks before, I'd also taken a little split from another colony, the one in the top bar hive I got from Sarah and Justin (Hi, Sarah and Justin!).

Checked them today and four of them have eggs! That means QUEENS!! The fifth looks like it should any day now, and the sixth - well ... it's made up of those Africanized foragers, and it's all the way across the creek. I should check them, too, but they're all the way across the creek, and they're assholes, so I don't wanna'.

I don't know if I told y'all, but I had health problems early spring last year (all better now!) and didn't notice my hives getting robbed out 'til it was too late. So I started this year with one little colony I cut out of the floor of a storage building in South Austin last fall, and now I have six and possibly eight colonies. Life is SO good! Despite it being 91 degrees right now here in Spicewood. (Why yes, I did get into my beesuit nekkid today.)

I have a young friend who wants to get into bees, and I told her if I'm lucky with the splits, I'll share. I'm going to have so much fun texting her that SHE'S DEFINITELY GETTING BEES!


Update: I texted her and SHE'S ABOUT TO POP, TOO!! What a good day.

See that black blob? That's a bee who wanted her closeup.


Thursday, April 26, 2018

How to Change an Aggressive Colony of Bees from Demons to Angels.

Well, that was fun.

A friend of mine "inherited" a honeybee colony when she bought her property a few years ago and they came with it.  They'd always been gentle little things, causing no more trouble than drinking from her birdbath and drowning in it occasionally.  She'd enjoyed watching them flitting around her butterfly garden and pollinating her squash.  She's not (yet) a beekeeper, but felt strongly that her property benefited from them being there, so she called other beekeepers out to check them every now and then to make sure they were healthy.  Life was good.
After my inspection. Man, that's a lot of bees!

That changed this spring.  They started buzzing her up at the house a couple hundred feet away, fifty or so at a time, getting caught in her hair and stinging the dogs.  Something was wrong.  So she hired me to come check them, to see if the little jerks at her house were from her hive or a feral colony.  I suited up, lit my smoker, and dug in.  It didn't take long to find out that yep, it was her hive.  I got bumped by a couple bees twenty feet from the hive, and man did they boil out as soon as I took the top off!  Ever seen three hundred tiny little faces lined up along the edge of a beehive box, glaring at you with much malice in their beady little eyes, vibrating with malevolence while five hundred of their sisters dive bomb your face?  I have.

Thanking the Lord for xanax, I gritted my teeth and went through the whole thing anyway, checking for swarm cells so I could squash them and forestall these genetics from escaping into our local area more than they already have, giving us time to figure out how to deal with them.  The five boxes took me well over an hour to look through, and I got stung through my suit fourteen times that I could count.  Three of those were on my face, so I spent the rest of that day looking like I'd had a bad collagen injection from a cut-rate plastic surgeon.  (Not to worry - I was all better that evening, after a swig of liquid benadryl and a nap.)

They were scary mean, so I knew and she knew they had to be dealt with.  How they got this way we'll never know for sure, but it's likely her old gentle queen was superseded, and the new one bred with some drones from a mean queen in another colony.  I told her we should requeen with a more gentle one, and we set about finding her.  BeeWeaver was all out for the season, so she called Tanya Phillips of Bee Friendly Austin to see if she had any available.  After describing to her what I told my friend I'd gone through, Tanya strongly recommended she get Les Crowder to do the requeening.  Of course I jumped at the chance to tag along!  So I called him and we made a plan.  I installed queen excluders between all the boxes so he could find the queen easier the following week, and we met up at my friend's house five days later to do the deed.

How to haul bees with a Miata.  Who needs a truck anyway?
Les is a soft spoken man who just feels good to be around.  He worked the bees so gently, taking care not to squash any if at all possible, taking his time easing each frame out, working slowly and methodically, waiting for the bees to get out of the way before doing the next thing.  I like that.  I'm the same way.  Part of it is self-serving - the more bees you kill, the madder and more likely to sting they get - but a bigger part of it is the guilt I feel for killing them just so I can hurry up and get things done.  Yeah, yeah, there's over twenty or forty thousand of them in the hive so what does it matter to kill a few.  Well, there's over half a million minutes in a year, so what does it matter to kill a few of those instead?

I was ready with my little bottle of alcohol when Les found the queen (I bet she makes a great swarm lure!).  We talked a bit about what an amazing animal she was, such a strong queen to make such a productive and healthy colony, how Mother Nature sure knows how to breed things better than we can.  Of course we both knew what had to be done, and into the alcohol she went.

Beeswax makes a great entrance plug.
Les proceeded to move the hive to a new spot further from my friend's house as I gathered up tools and set a box on the original spot to catch the foragers so I could take them away that night.  On Les's suggestion, I'd brought a frame of open brood with eggs from my Sweetheart Hive, a darling little feral colony I'd cut out of the floor of a storage shed in South Austin last fall.  We put it in a box with a few frames of capped brood from the aggressive hive, and I set it in place.  Taking some of the capped brood and the majority of the foragers would lessen the numbers of aggressive bees my friend had to deal with while waiting the month and a half for the new queen's more docile daughters to take over, and if all goes well I'll end up with a new colony headed by a daughter of my Sweetheart queen.  Nice trade for being willing to deal with the jerkiest of the jerks for a month or two.

Les told me where the queen cage was so I can find it easily when I come back in a week to let her go, and we left, glad to be away from that colony.  Man, they were not fun.

And the vibrating begins.
I'm so glad my friend called Les to do this.  Not only was it fun to work with him (yes, him - not those bees), but I learned things, AND he saved me from making a big mistake.  If it had been me, I'd have let them release the queen in a few days, or released her myself in three.  Les said with Africanized bees, which these very well may have been, that's too early.  They'll likely kill her unless you leave her in the cage for at least five days, or better yet a week.  So yeah, my inexperience with Africanized bees would have at best cost my friend more money and frustration having to find a new queen and having this done all over again, or at worst doomed her colony.  Crisis averted!  I'm so glad I got to avoid screwing up and dealing with the guilt that would come along with it, especially because I'd told her, before I found out how mean they were, that between the two of us we could absolutely handle caring for this hive without having to call anyone else in to help.  Ooof.

A cold front blew in last night, so I decided it'd be best to wait 'til just before dawn this morning to go get them.  It was perfect - almost all of them were in the boxes, and it was so cold that the few left outside couldn't put up much of a fuss.  I plugged the entrance with a wad of beeswax,
I wonder if Joe knows what's in the boxes.
ratchet strapped the whole thing together, carried it to my car, ratchet strapped it to the trunk, and away we went.  With thoughts of what would happen if they slipped on the way, or worse yet I got into a wreck, I used two one-ton-test straps to hold the boxes together and five to strap it to the trunk, then oh-so-carefully and oh-so-slowly putted all the way home.  Yep.  Seven tons of ratchet straps.  I probably would have used more had I had them. *snicker*

As if riding four miles on the back of the Miata wasn't enough to piss them off, they got loaded into the tractor bucket when I got home and, as daylight broke, we slowly vibrated our way across the creek to the spot I'd carefully picked out for them, Joe Dog following behind.  Their new home is a few hundred feet from my house, a hundred more than that from my beeyard, across the creek and through a bunch of brush and trees.  I would have put it even further away, but wanted to keep it a good distance from the county road back there.  Bicyclists ride by there fairly often and I didn't think they'd appreciate SURPRISE BEES!!!1!!  Though I guess it would have made them pedal faster ... more cardio, yes?

Before I opened them up, I turned the tractor around and headed it towards home, still running, so I could make a quick getaway, or at least as quick of a getaway as one can make on a tractor. Man, they were
Opened up and all done! Yes, I took that photo while hiding on the tractor.
Mama didn't raise no fool.
mad. Good thing it was still cold or me and Joe would probably have gotten nailed a few times again.

It feels good to have accomplished this.  I'd always wondered if I could take working a really aggressive colony.  Living in an area Africanized honeybees have definitely infiltrated, that's a very real possibility.  My friend said Les told her this was one of the most scary-aggressive colonies he's encountered in this area.  With his decades of bee experience, that's saying something.  So now I know.  I'll be fine.  So long as I have xanax.


Friday, August 25, 2017

Small Batch Canning - Fall Recipes

Fall Canning Recipes
For canning instructions and more recipes, visit Ball Canning’s website and
the National Center for Home Food Preservation’s website


Hot Peppers
Makes about 5 pints
2-3/4 lbs banana, jalapeno, or serrano peppers (or combination of these varieties)
6 cups vinegar (5% acidity)
2 cups water
3 cloves garlic, crushed
Ball® Pickle Crisp (optional)
LEAVE peppers whole or cut into 1-inch pieces. Mix peppers together if using multiple varieties.
COMBINE vinegar, water, and garlic in a large saucepot. Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Discard garlic.
PACK peppers into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Add Ball® Pickle Crisp to each jar, if desired.
LADLE hot liquid over peppers, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.
REMOVE air bubbles, wipe rim, apply lids/bands and tighten fingertip tight.
PROCESS 10 minutes in a boiling-water canner.


Green Tomato Salsa Verde
Makes about 6 (8 oz) half pints or 3 (16 oz) pints
7 cups green tomatoes, chopped cored peeled (about 12 medium)
5 to 10 jalapeno, HabaƱero or Scotch bonnet peppers, seeded and finely chopped
2 cups chopped red onion (about 2 large)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup lime juice
1/2 cup cilantro, loosely packed finely chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

PREPARE boiling water canner. Heat jars in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil.  Wash lids in warm soapy water and set bands aside.
COMBINE tomatoes, peppers, onion, garlic and lime juice in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Stir in cilantro, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.
LADLE hot salsa into hot jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. REMOVE air bubbles, wipe rim, apply lids/bands and tighten fingertip tight.
PROCESS filled jars in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Quick Tip: Use from 5 to 10 hot peppers to reach the level of heat you desire.


Summer Squash Relish          
Makes about 5 pint jars
4 pounds fresh, firm yellow and/or zucchini summer squash (as purchased)
½ cup diced sweet onion (about 2.4 ounces prepared)
2 cups cider vinegar (5%)
2¼ cups white sugar
2 teaspoons celery seed
2 teaspoons turmeric
4 teaspoons mustard seed

Rinse squash well, remove blossom and stem ends and shred in a food processor.  Peel onions and remove root and stem ends. Rinse well and dice, or shred in a food processor.
Combine remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.  Carefully add squash and onions.  Return combined ingredients to a boil; boil gently for 5 minutes, stirring often.
Pack hot vegetables with liquid into sterilized, hot jars, leaving ½-inch headspace.  Make sure liquid covers the top of the food pieces, wipe rims, and apply and adjust prepared canning lids.
Process in a boiling water canner for fifteen minutes, adjusting for altitude.


Canned Tomatoes

2-1/2 to 3-1/2 lb ripe tomatoes (about 8 to 11 medium) per quart
1/4-1/2 tsp Ball® Citric Acid or bottled lemon juice
Salt, optional
Ball® Glass preserving jars with lids and bands

PREPARE boiling water canner. Heat jars in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil.  Wash lids in warm soapy water and set bands aside.
WASH tomatoes. Dip in boiling water 30 to 60 seconds. Immediately dip in cold water. Slip off skins. Trim away any green areas and cut out core. Leave tomatoes whole or cut into halves or quarters.
PREPARE tomatoes according to raw or hot pack recipe.
ADD ½ tsp Ball® Citric Acid or 2 Tbsp bottled lemon juice to each hot quart jar. ADD ¼ tsp Ball® Citric Acid or 1 Tbsp bottled lemon juice to each hot pint jar.

PACK tomatoes into hot jars according to raw or hot pack recipe. Add 1 teaspoon salt to each quart jar, 1/2 teaspoon to each pint jar, if desired.
REMOVE air bubbles, wipe rim, apply lids/bands and tighten fingertip tight.
PROCESS filled jars in a boiling water canner 40 minutes for pints and 45 minutes for quarts, adjusting for altitude.

Raw Pack
PACK tomatoes into hot jars leaving 1 inch headspace.
LADLE hot water over tomatoes leaving 1 inch headspace. Add 1 teaspoon salt to each quart jar, 1/2 teaspoon to each pint jar, if desired.
Hot Pack
PLACE tomatoes in a large saucepot. Add water to cover. Bring to a boil and boil gently 5 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking.
PACK hot tomatoes into hot jars leaving 1 inch headspace.
LADLE hot cooking liquid over tomatoes leaving 1 inch headspace. Add 1 teaspoon salt to each quart jar, 1/2 teaspoon to each pint jar, if desired.


Dilly Beans
Makes about 6 (16 oz) pints
3 3/4 cups vinegar
3 3/4 cups water
1/3 cup Ball® Preserving & Pickling Salt
6 cloves garlic
6 springs of dill
3 lbs green and/or yellow wax beans, trimmed and cut into jar-length pieces
PREPARE boiling water canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.
TRIM off ends of green beans and discard. Wash.
COMBINE vinegar, water and salt in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve salt.
PACK beans, dill and garlic in jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace at the top.
LADLE hot liquid over bean, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.
REMOVE air bubbles, wipe rim, apply lids/bands and tighten fingertip tight.
PROCESS filled jars in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude


Pickled Okra
Makes about 3 (32 oz) quart jars or 6 (16oz) pint jars
3 pounds okra
3 medium hot chilies (small ones, like cherry peppers), seeded and sliced thinly
3 garlic cloves
3 sprigs fresh dill
1 quart cider vinegar
¼ cup kosher salt
1 tablespoon mustard seed
BRING the vinegar, 1 ½ cups water, salt, and mustard seed to a boil in a small pot. Turn off heat. In 3 clean, pre-warmed Ball® quart jars, divide the okra, chilies, garlic, and dill.
PACK tightly leaving ¼ inch headspace. Pour the hot brine into the jars making sure to leave ¼ inch headspace. Cap with a clean Ball® lid and tighten canning band to fingertip tight. Place jar in boiling water canner. Repeat until all jars are filled.
PROCESS jars for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude.


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Food Preservation Class Notes

Preserving the Harvest
For an online copy of this handout and others, go to and click on the “Tutorials” tab.

Most foods can be frozen easily preserving the texture more than canning. 
Before freezing, most vegetables must be blanched using either boiling water or steam.
Water Blanching: dunking the vegetables in boiling water for a few seconds or a few minutes. 
Steam Blanching: steaming the vegetables in a single layer held over boiling water.
What vegetable you are preserving will determine the best method and time - consult the table on the “Freezing” page on NCHFP’s website (url below). 
Once the time is up, remove the vegetables from the boiling water and dunk them immediately in either cold or ice water.
Pack into freezer bags, label with contents and date, and freeze. 
Whole: There are a lot of vegetables that are almost designed to be stored by simply drying them once they are mature: winter squash, garlic, onions, soup beans, soup peas, cowpeas, and hot peppers.  Simply let them mature completely on the vine/plant, then store indoors or out of the weather.  Beans and peas will need winnowing to remove the husks.
Sliced: Other vegetables take a bit more work to dry.  Tomatoes, green beans, peaches, apples, apricots, and many more can be washed, sliced, and dried on racks, then stored in vacuum-sealed jars or frozen.  In less humid climates, people can simply put the food on covered racks and leave them outside where there’s a good air flow.  It’s quite humid here, so using an electric dehydrator or your oven is wise.
Oven-Dried Tomatoes: Best done with small, cherry types.  Slice them in half or thirds, lay in a single layer in a baking pan or cookie sheet, and bake in the oven on it’s lowest setting until dry and leathery (Some gas stoves have a pilot light that alone will dry tomatoes overnight.).  Store in the refrigerator in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid, or freeze. 
Leather Britches: Green beans strung on a string, ends and "strings" removed, then hung to dry until leathery.  

There are two canning processes - which type of process to use and why:
  • Water-bath canning = to preserve very acidic foods (at least 4.6pH) - heating sealed jars of food in boiling water for a specified time. Kills all bacteria and toxins except botulinum spores, so only food that is 4.6pH or more acidic should be preserved this way (that level of acidity keeps those spores dormant). 
  • Pressure canning = to preserve foods more alkaline than 4.6pH - heating sealed jars of food under pressure which raises temperatures above 212 degrees, so kills even the botulinum toxin spores. 
  • Both processes are exactly the same in their methods until you do the actual cooking/boiling. 
    Then the only differences are the type of canning pot, the amount of water in those canning pots (only 2 to 3 inches in pressure canning – completely covering the jars in water-bath canning), the application of pressure, and possibly the amount of time to process. 
Basic equipment for water bath canning
  • Ball Blue Book.
  • Large pot with lid and rack, large enough to hold jars  along with enough water to cover them well.  A pasta pot with colander insert works well for small batches, or soup pot with vegetable steamer in the bottom. 
  • Canning jars - Only use jars made and sold for canning.  
  • Rings and NEW lids - Rings can be re-used, but lids cannot (unless they are Tattler re-usables).
  • Cooking pot - Anything big enough to prepare the food you are going to put in the jars.
  • Clean kitchen towels and hot pads, spoons, measuring cups, butter knife for “bubbling” jars (working air bubbles out of filled jars)
  • Tongs for removing jars, rings, and lids from hot water - Special canning tongs are recommended for this, but you can use anything that will allow you to safely and firmly grasp and lift hot jars and lids from boiling water.
  • Stove or other heat source capable of boiling water.  Glass-top stoves are not recommended. 
  • Labeling supplies
  • Timer
  • And, of course, food to be canned
Extra equipment that is recommended but not essential
  • Canning tool kit: Magnetic lid “lifter”, canning jar funnel, canning jar tongs
  • Food mill, food processor, tomato mill, etc.
  • Water-bath canner with rack

How to water-bath can high-acid foods, step by step:
  1. Bring lids, rings, and jars just to a simmer in your canning pot, then turn off heat.  To avoid lime deposits on jars, add a cup vinegar per gallon of water.
  2. While jars are heating, prepare food to be canned according to your recipe or method:
·         Use ONLY lab-tested recipes to ensure acidity stays in the safe range, and follow them exactly.  Even something as simple as substituting “whole” for “sliced” can adjust the pH to dangerous levels later.
·         Be sure to use vinegar of the exact percentage of acidity your recipe calls for.  
·         A note about tomatoes: Some tomatoes aren’t really as acidic as commonly thought, so need acidity added to make them safe to water-bath can.  Refer to your recipe or the Ball Blue Book for specifics. 
  1.  Remove jars, lids, and rings onto clean kitchen towel laid out on counter.  Immediately fill jars, being careful to keep rims clean, leaving at least half an inch of headspace (empty space between top of food and rim of jar).  
  2. “Bubble” them, ie insert a thin utensil to work out air bubbles.  Wipe rims with clean kitchen towel.
  3. Working quickly, put lids and rings on jars, not tightening, just applying ‘til snug.  The lids and
    rings are designed to form a one-way valve, allowing pressure that builds up inside the jar to exhaust during processing (also called venting).  If you tighten the rings too tight, the jars may break or explode.  Venting is also why you leave the half-inch of headspace - so your food doesn’t get pushed out of the jars as they vent, dirtying the rim and possibly getting in the way of a safe seal forming between the lid and the jar rim.
  4. Place jars back in canning pot, making sure water is covering top of jars by an inch.  If you stack jars, don’t stack directly on top of each other: instead, place one jar “staggered” over two below so they can vent.  
  5. Cover pot, bring back to a boil and start timing.  Process (boil) for the time recommended by your recipe.  If canning in altitudes higher than 1000 feet above sea level, consult the link below about adjustments.
  6. When time is up, remove the jars from the canner to a towel on the counter.  Using towels as hot pads, tighten lids.  
  7. Let cool slowly, keeping them out of drafts (if they cool too quickly, the jars make break).  
  8. Smile as you hear the pings of the jars sealing while you’re drinking that well-earned beer to celebrate your first canning success.  
  9. Next day, test every seal (see below, under “Problems you may encounter”), then label and date all jars and store in a cool, dark place.    

Problems you may encounter
  • Jars not “pinging” when sealing -  Wait ‘til jars are completely cool (next day is good) and feel the center of the lid.  If it’s convex (“caved in/down”), your jar is sealed.  I double-check by removing the ring and trying to pick up the jar by the lid; if it holds, I’ve got a good seal.  If the jar fails any of these tests, I refrigerate and eat promptly.
  • Lime deposits on jars - Add one cup vinegar per gallon of water to canner pot before boiling jars.
  • Jars breaking - This doesn’t happen often, but it’s usually because the rings were tightened too much before processing or they were exposed to drafts or cold while still hot from the canner.  

Helpful links:

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