I wrote recently about being late starting my spring garden. I did manage to get in a bunch more tomatoes this week, along with a few more seeds and some broccoli. Now I need your wisdom, dear readers.
This year I'd really like to learn how to can and preserve some of my harvest. Problem is, I'm terribly intimidated by the mere thought of it and could use some virtual hand-holding.
I do already preserve a lot of what I grow by freezing (my homemade freezer applesauce is to die for; gave a bunch to my kids' teachers this year and got rave reviews ::preen::).
However, I'd really like to expand into canning as well, so the harvest can be preserved without having to use up all that electricity for freezer space or being so dependent upon continuous power, you know? It's good emergency preparedness, it's thrifty and sensible....and it just tastes good.
I have a confession to make, though. It's incredibly silly, but I am so intimidated by the whole process.....I have no idea why. Just seems so complicated, eh? And I'm terrified that if I do something wrong, I may poison my family. I know, I know, an overexaggerated fear....but I can't get it out of my mind. Plus I am just not that domestically inclined, so these kinds of home arts are just not something that fit very comfortably in my skin or psyche.
I did buy a book on canning and preserving, but honestly, it just seems too complex and intimidating to learn from a book alone. I am better at learning by doing. The book will be a great resource for me once I've learned the basics, and it will provide much troubleshooting advice for when I run into questions. But to learn the basics from it? I'd rather learn it first-hand from someone in person.
I have no family experience to draw upon for canning; my mother did do some limited gardening but I don't remember her ever doing any canning. My mother-in-law, despite growing up on a farm, says they never did any canning either. I do have a friend who says she'll come over and teach me in exchange for some of our grapes to make wine with, but honestly that's not the way I'd rather learn it. It's my back-up plan if needed, but it's not my first choice.
My hope is that I will find a local class on canning and preserving this summer. I need it to be short and sweet, not weeks and weeks, as my schedule is not conducive to going to a class for weeks on end---too many other commitments. But I often find that if I'm afraid of something, taking a class on it is just the ticket to helping me through that fear and being able to venture out to try it on my own.
I don't know why I prefer a class to learning it from a friend; I think it's because I'd rather my failures be in an anonymous setting rather than looking like an idiot in front of a friend. (How neurotic is that?) And it just seems too invasive to have someone come over into my personal space to teach me; I'd rather learn it in a neutral setting. Whatever the reason, I know I'd rather learn it from a class than from a friend, so I'm going to look around and see what I find. Any ideas on the best places to look for such a class?
My other question for you readers who are experienced at this: What canning equipment do you find absolutely essential and what do you not find as essential? I have the proper jars and funnels already from my freezer applesauce etc. experiments; I'm talking about the actual pots and things. If you have brand recommendations too, I'd love to hear them before going out and guessing at buying what I need. Just seems like there's a lot of "stuff" you are supposed to buy and I'm wondering just how much of it is really essential, and if so, which types/brands are the best to get.
Finally, if anyone wants to be my garden/preserving doula and hold my hand to reassure me that I really can learn to do this and it's really not that hard, I'm all ears! I don't have any idea why this is so intimidating to me, but it is. Any encouragement or gentle advice would be warmly welcomed.