How Not to Can at Home: Pickled Green Beans & Cauliflower

Doing for yourself something that's basically been done for you, your entire life, is a funny thing. Take canning and preserving for example. How many times have I opened a can of soup or jar of jam and thought nothing of it? But then, when I take the care and effort to can some pickled cauliflower and green beans myself to give as holidays gifts, I am left panicking over whether or not I'm going to poison someone.
We could get into the psychology of it and boy would I love to, but I think that at the end of the day, doing anything in which the process devotes an entire, extremely detailed section to "how failures occur" is stressful. There's just so much emphasis on sterilizing and bacteria and dos and don'ts, that it's easy to get caught up in what you may be doing wrong, when in retrospect, I don't think canned pickled vegetables runs the same risk of growing deadly bacteria in comparison to say, something like cream of corn or clam chowder (items more easily spoiled/ made more dangerous by time). Right?

Both Jam it, Pickle it, Cure it's version & ours:
OK, now that I've got you this far along, I want to tell you exactly how I came to the point of calling Matt at work and asking him the question: "You don't think I could actually poison someone, do you?"

First, I came to the conclusion that pickled vegetables would make great holiday gifts for coworkers. Second, I felt intimidated by the canning process so put it on the back burner. Third, I read LA in Bloom's Canning Visit with Jen Smith, which made the process seem so approachable and cozyan activity that might be partnered with potato pancakes with yogurt and pumpkin butterand decided that it was going to be No Big Deal. Fourth, and here's where things went the most wrong, I believe: I got started alone and without any of the special equipment.

Equipment Called for That I didn’t HaveHow I Improvised
Very large pot with canning rack attached so that boiling water can fully surround jars during processing.7-quart stockpot with pasta colander insert thing. Major mistake that turned what could have been a lovely afternoon of canning into some version of hell that kept me tied to the kitchen for five consecutive 10-minute water baths as this 7-quart stockpot only fit one jar at a time. (I wasn’t even using that big of a jar!)
Jar tongs to remove jars from boiling water.Burning myself, mostly.
Funnel in order to funnel hot liquid into jar.Ladle. This actually worked fine, though I think if I were doing a jam, I would definitely want the funnel in order to keep the outside of the jar clean.
I also think that a significant element I had going against me was the fact that I read the entire weckcanning.com website and all 18 steps of "canning safely" more than once, which basically turned me from a guileless but inspired canning novice into a well-informed but poorly-equipped canning novice obsessed with canning safely.

All of these issues aside, I successfully canned four out of the five jars of pickled green beans and cauliflower. With Weck jars, here is the way you check to make sure you have "succeeded": Once the jar is completely cooled, take the metal clips off and try to pull the lid up. If it doesn't come up, you are a success. If it does, you have failed. I failed on my very first one and have a few guesses as to why. One, because I left too much headspace between the liquid and the lid. Two, because I may not have processed it at a rolling boil for the full ten minutes. Three, because I willed it to fail with all of my self-doubt.

The good news? I refrigerated the fail and it was basically like having an opened jar of pickled green beans in the fridge. Delicious!
All this said, I really hope I haven't discouraged you from canning. If anything, I hope I've encouraged you to try itjust maybe with the proper tools and a friend who has canned once or twice before.

Or, at the very least, try it for the LOLshere's a record of just some of the things I Googled that day:
canning fails
pickling fails
is all-clad nonreactive?
home canning what is the worst that can happen?
los angeles is at sea level?
what is botulism?
cute overload kitten (I needed a break.)

Pickled Green Beans via Jam it, Pickle it, Cure it

You’ll need 3 clean pint jars with lids. You can buy canning jars with vacuum-seal lids (look for Ball or Kerr brand jars), or you can reuse jars from your pantry. If your jars aren’t new, make sure they are free of rust and odors and the lids seal tightly. When it comes to labeling, I’m astrip-of-masking-tape-and-black-Sharpie kind of a gal. However, if you are artistically inclined, feel free to createnifty labels either on stickers or tied around the mouth of the jar. Fancy or not, it’s important that you prepare somekind of label that lists the contents and date prepared.

3 pounds green beans, stems intact, washed and dried
9 cloves garlic, crushed
3 cinnamon sticks
3 bay leaves
3 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
3 tablespoons brown mustard seeds
6 tablespoons dill seeds
3 tablespoons black peppercorns
6 teaspoons kosher salt
11/2 to 2 1/ 4 cups distilled white vinegar

Add one-third of the green beans, garlic,spices, and salt to each jar. Fill each jar halfway with vin-egar (about 1/2 to 3/4 cups). Top off each jar with cool water.Seal each jar with a lid, and shake gently to dissolve the salt and distribute the spices. Refrigerate for at least 3 days.

Refrigerated pickled green beans will beat their prime for 2 weeks but will keep for about 1 month.

Carefully read through the canning directions on page 88 before you begin (OR, in my case, weckcanning.com one million times). In a nonreactive sauce-pan, combine the vinegar, 6 cups water, and the salt and bring to a rolling boil to dissolve the salt. Divide the beans, garlic, bay leaves, and spices evenly among 3 sterilized pint jars as directed, leaving about 1-inch headspace. Pourthe boiling vinegar solution into the jars, immersing the beans fully and leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Process in a hot-water bath for 10 minutes at altitudes up to 1,000 feet,15 minutes at altitudes up to 6,000 feet, and 20 minutes at altitudes over 6,000 feet.

For super-duper garlic pickles, substitute 6 cloves crushed garlic and 4 extra tablespoons of dill seeds for the cinnamon, bay leaves, and mustard seeds.Vampires need not apply.
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Matthew said...

As a pickle fanatic, I have to say, I REALLY liked the pickled green beans!

Deborah Boschert said...

How stylish are those jars?! I'm sure the recipients "enjoyed" the veggies, but if they didn't, they still have the awesome jar.

Mary Anne said...

i'm tickled by those pickles!

Heather Taylor said...

home canning what is the worst that can happen?
los angeles is at sea level?

Ana Degenaar said...

I am obsessed with preserving!
Loved this post :)

jeana sohn said...

haha! you are so funny. love this post. yum it up!

keepfeeling said...

your attempts never fail to make me laugh. so freakin' funny. i think you win the award for best label - "enjoy?"

your canning ambition is contagious!

p.s. nashville is far, but hopefully there will be more stores soon. : )

Heather Taylor said...

Totes YUM IT UP!

amelia said...

here's to yumming it up again, but next time with a canning rack!

Megan Taylor said...

nice chart!