Canning At Home:
Since quarantine started several months ago, I have been getting fruits and vegetables delivered from the farmers market, rather than going to the grocery store. However, I have been piling up on more than I can use, so I have been coming up with ways to prep them and store them for later use. I have been making food in bulk and canning and freezing them. I am new to canning and learning things as I go, and have followed instructions for most of the food I have canned. However, I began thinking I can just can anything I want and it’ll stay good in a jar until I am ready to use it. Turns out, that is not the case.
One of the farms around here grows squash. Like, a LOT of squash. Zucchini too. Sometimes, it’s one of the only vegetables they offer that can be cooked easily on it’s own as a side dish. So I get some EVERY week. Of course, after several months, we got tired of eating roasted squash twice a week and I found I had more in my fridge than any normal person should have. So I found this tasty recipe for Summer Squash and Corn Chowder. I pulled out my gigantic stock pot, made seven large jars of corn chowder, and sealed them up in my power cooker, using the same instructions as a jar of salsa or sauce.
As for the soup itself, when eaten freshly cooked, I thought it was delicious. It was creamy, full of two of my favorite veggies, and a nice change from roasted squash. My family thought it lacked meat, since I didn’t add the cheese or bacon. They suggested pouring it over chicken in the crockpot, letting it simmer, then shredding the chicken. This is an interesting idea that I would like to try one day, once we are ready to eat squash again.
How I F*d Up:
After the jars sat in the cabinet for a week or two, I noticed a bit of separation. I didn’t think much of it, as a lot of things separate and need to be shaken before opening. So I gave one of the jars a little shake, and seeing that it looked creamy again, placed it back into the cabinet. A few days later, I saw it looked a bit off, and started to worry about feeding my family dairy that has been on a shelf. I had originally assumed it was fine, since there are a lot of canned soups in the store with dairy, but had grown concerned that I had done it wrong. I figured I would just dump it out in the morning, just to be safe.
The next morning, in the kitchen with my daughter, she mentioned seeing some fruit flies in the house. I thought that was odd, as we’ve never had fruit flies in the house before, but didn’t have a lot of time to investigate at that moment. I just shrugged it off, thinking they would go away, and went about my day. Later that afternoon, I went to dump the soup. When I opened the cabinet, I got hit in the face with what smelled like days old vomit and realized I’d found the source of the fruit flies. It seems when I shook the jar, it created some kind of noxious fumes, which built up in the jar, puffed the lid out, and leaked all over the inside of the cabinet. I immediately pulled the jars out and hoped to get it all dumped before anyone realized what happened. Upon opening that first jar, a horrendous odor exploded from the jar into the kitchen. You know that smell of a dead possum on a country road in the middle of August? Yeah, this was worse. I didn’t have a dead possum, I had 7 jars of rotten milk. Then I heard my boyfriend yell from across the house “WHAT THE HELL IS THAT SMELL???!!!!” He and the kids jumped up and opened all of the windows while I finished dumping the soup. We ended up ordering pizza while I spent the time I would have used cooking to deep clean the cabinet. Once the pizza was ordered and I got the kitchen cleaned, it was time to feed the cats. This is when we noticed two of them were missing. During the panic, one of the kids opened the window without a screen and they’d gotten outside. Which meant I had to run around in the yard to catch these indoor only cats and bring them back indoors.
After everything calmed down and we’d had dinner, I did a google search. I found this article about things that should never be canned from home, including dairy, meat, and several other things that’s pretty important to know before you start canning. Basically, if something isn’t shelf safe before canning, it won’t be after canning either.
Suggestions For Improvement:
Proper instructions should be used before canning anything. Don’t just assume that sealing something in a jar will magically make it shelf safe. Any food item that doesn’t have specific instructions for safely canning from home should be vacuum sealed and frozen, rather than attempting to can.