Not getting it..

DSheridan(8a)March 26, 2011

Hi, I'm having a difficult time with these pc recipes. For example, some vegetables say, "cover with boiling water and boil for x minutes." Do they mean to say "cover with boiling water, return to boil, and boil for x minutes." Or just pour boiling water over and, leaving the heat on, wait x minutes.

Usually the quantities are enormous for me, who lives near supermarkets, not farms. Safeway has asparagus on sale and I bought 4 lbs. The usda guide calls for using a crate. It took me 25 minutes to get 4 lbs into half pt. jars, meanwhile the asparagus is sitting in hot water, presumably still cooking. I can't imagine how long it would take someone to jar a crate. What do you guys do?

Again, the jars called for are usually twice what I need. Asparagus gave times for qts and pts, but all I want/need are half pints. I have this problem with most of these recipes. Am I safe to just reduced the time based on the difference between doing qts and pts?


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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Am I safe to just reduced the time based on the difference between doing qts and pts?

No you cannot reduce the processing time called for even when you reduce the jar size. So if you are doing 1/2 pints you would process them for the pint time.

I know it can be confusing if you are trying to can in small batches. Canning recipes are written for the purpose of canning foods when in season for use when they are out of season so they are based on bulk quantities.

But it isn't really a matter of where you live although gardening sure makes a difference. It is more about how and when you shop and how much you buy when you shop. EX: a really good price on asparagus (which will be in 6 weeks when it is in season ) buy 24 lbs of it and can it. The savings will be substantial.

There is also an element of efficient use of time and energy incorporated in them. So had you purchased say 12 lbs of asparagus to do it would have been a much more efficient use of your time and the energy used to process it. You would have had at least 1/2 of a normal canner load rather than just a few jars.

"cover with boiling water and boil for x minutes."

It means have a pot of boiling water, drop in the asparagus, and boil it for x minutes. Then dip it out and put it in jars.

Part of the time it took you was because you were using small jars. Filling pint, or especially quart jars, with spears goes quite quickly but it does take some practice to get your assembly line up and running. That comes with experience. :)

Look into some of the canning books for what is called niche canning - small recipes in small batches. One that is often recommended is Small Batch Preserving and the Ball Blue Book has many recipes that are easily cut in half too.

I hope this helps. Be patient with yourself and just know that it will get easier with practice.


    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 8:46PM
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"cover with boiling water and boil for x minutes."

It means have a pot of boiling water, drop in the asparagus, and boil it for x minutes. Then dip it out and put it in jars.

Sorry, you stated the very thing I don't understand. Most cooking recipes I know state (or imply) that you add the vegetables to boiling water. Once you do that the water is not boiling. I'ts now at a much lower temperature. In cooking, I understand what the recipe is trying to tell me.

I am asking in pc, if the recipe states to add boiling water to a vegetable, do they also mean that you wait until the water returns to a boil and then time whatever minutes are required.

Sorry if I'm over-complicating this but it would also make sense to me from what I know about canning so far - which is admittedly minute - that what they mean is pour boiling water over and wait whatever minutes are required..

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 9:19PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

Let's approach this from another angle. If you try to put too much asparagus in too small a quantity of water, adding the asparagus will reduce the temperature below the boiling point. You don't want that. You want enough water (or to add the asparagus in batches) so that either the water stays at the boiling point when asparagus is added or it returns to the boiling point almost immediately. In some cases, this might mean two kettles of water boiling simultaneously to accomodate a large amount of asparagus.

So yes, you want to pre-cook the asparagus quickly in boiling water, not let it remain in water that takes 5-10 minutes or whatever to get back up to temperature and then boil, resulting in khaki green overcooked, soggy vegetable.

In your case I'm assuming you'd be canning asparagus pieces, which is much easier to work with in 1/2 pint jars and speedier.

As Dave mentioned, in small batches such as you are canning, a lot of the economy of scale is lost as your utilities to heat the pressure canner remain essentially the same whether it's full or not.

In that case, freezing might be a better alternative.

In your area, considering the amount of asparagus you could reasonably consume in a year, it might be a good idea to see if you can find a market that will sell you a crate at a discount or wait for loss leaders when asparagus gets really cheap and do a big batch.

That doesn't mean your effort with this smaller batch is wasted, as anyone new to this kind of canning needs a certain amount of practice to get up to speed and develop a workable routine. It might be useful to do a search on this forum for first-time canning and read some of the tips on setting up. There should be several threads on that topic. If you can't find them let us know and we'll locate some of those threads.


    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 10:09PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

What Carol said - big pot of boiling water, drop in the pieces of asparagus say one jar full at a time if you must, there is a minimal if any drop in the water temperature. Time it, dip it out and into the jar, drop another jar full into the water and while it is cooking pour hot water into the first jar and cap it and put it in the canner. Like I said. It is an assembly line type process.

And I agree with Carol too on the freezing. Such a small amount of asparagus really isn't worth the time and energy cost of canning. But it is your choice of course and a good learning experience.

For future reference you might also note that asparagus can be canned using raw pack methods if you wish.


    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 11:04PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Dave, you just beat me to it, I was wondering why not raw pack too. Easier to handle and assemble, especially if using wide mouth jars.

I like cold asparagus so leftovers from a jar aren't an issue for me - cooking for two, I have a little stash of the 1 1/2 pint tall wide mouth jars and they are perfect for asparagus spears.

It's too early for local asparagus here, and I haven't seen any in our grocery stores that has not been grown in Mexico. We're getting California berries, but ALL tomatoes of every variety, ALL asparagus in my grocery stores is grown in Mexico still this week.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 12:09AM
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Ahh, now I get it. Thank you very much and forgive for being so dense. It makes perfect sense now. One other question if I may. What is the purpose of adding salt to the jar? Doesn't salt make the pH more alkaline? Seems like many of these recipes say add a tsp of salt before covering with boiling water, or not, depending on taste. It's only just a taste issue?

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 11:38AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

The salt is optional. It is just for taste. Most recipes will say "optional" but some leave that part out. The salt exception is when fermenting foods as it has a safety role there.


PS: you aren't dense! :) It is just something new to you and we all have those "I don't get it" moments with new experiences.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 12:08PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

I agree. You aren't "dense" and one of the reasons we're here is to clarify. We share a commitment to canning and are glad to help.

The instructions are written by people working from a picture in their head of what they already know how to do.

It's a particular skillset to write instructions that are clear for novices and account for all potential misunderstandings. Just look at instruction manuals and it's obvious that effective technical writing is rare indeed.


    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 3:20PM
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