Planting out and preparing for harvests: seedlings and canning jars

Today I got a lot of plants in the ground. I lined the front walk with calendula, which I hope to harvest for tincture, and then interspersed that with blood-drop emlets, which I am growing because they are beautiful and I hope to get seeds. The very fancy and expensive Japanese morning glory seeds I bought from Onalee several years ago all germinated and are husky critters (she also has daturas and brugmansias–that’s where I got my fastuosa seeds). I didn’t realize the foliage is variegated. The flower is purple and blue. The Japanese train the plant in a particular way so it makes bigger flowers, but I am interested in it climbing even if the flowers are subsequently small, so I put it between some snap peas on the fence and will put some in a pot to climb up the trellis next to the living room window. I’m growing this morning glory just because I like them.

I also got all the black nightshades in the ground, some in their own plot where the potatoes grew last year and where some potato orphans are putting up new purple growth, and some in the semi-shady spot in my main plot next to my patio. I’ll be able to compare the production I get from shaded and not shaded plants. According to what I’ve read, this plant’s production is not affected by up to 60% shade–IOW, this plant has my yard’s name on it–so I’m looking forward to harvesting some berries. They’ll also have their own water source, which they certainly have not had in the past in my garden. Speaking of berries, the strawberries are just starting to turn red, and the raspberries are finally full of nascent berries. Seems like the best thing with them is just leave them alone to do their thing–they tip-layered themselves last year and they are now shooting up massive new stalks.

Next to the columbines I put a bunch of Elka poppies in the ground. I still have a few more of those that need to get a bit bigger before they go in, and I have a number of Papaver setigerum that need to gain a little size first too. At least this time those seedlings actually look healthy. In the past they have always been so weak and sickly that they did not make it to planting out stage. Hopefully, the third time’s the charm! I would love to get seeds from that plant. Talk about rare.

I received my dittany of Crete plants and happily potted them up. They are available from Mountain Valley Growers. Very wonderful customer service there! They accidentally sent me a bunch of other plants, and they graciously allowed me to keep them. Those too were all healthy little plants, mostly salvias, which I like, so it worked out great.

This year I want to start making wine. I’ve had some books on country wines for a while. One thing holding me back was fermenting in a plastic bucket. Sorry, but this it just not happening. I cast around for what else I could use. I ordered an older book by Pattie Vargas and Rich Gulling called Country Wines, which really inspired me. ┬áThat book describes old-timers using a two-gallon crock covered with a cloth and a dish as the primary fermenter. I have a crock I use for making pickles, but it’s only a gallon, so I ordered a two-gallon job from this reasonable crock place. The crock I have is the same brand, but I got it elsewhere, from a place that had wooden pickle-holder-unders as well. I already have a couple of empty gallon jugs I saved from the organic 95% alcohol I use for various stuff. Now I need just a few more items and I will be ready for wine experimenting.

Finally, I got myself into a massive Scorpio digging mode (we are all part mole) and came up with a number of different canning jars to fool around with after getting really pissed off about the bisphenol-A in metal canning jar lids. This is old news, actually, but I have personally been avoiding doing anything about it, having many many regular Ball jars in my possession. But gearing up for this season, I thought I would try some different canning vessels. Part of this comes out of a desire to avoid the endocrine disruptor, but another part, perhaps just as big, comes from my desire to do things in a more traditional or old-fashioned way. I have always liked old-fashioned things. In some screwy way, this is connected up with my magical practice as well. So I bought some nice but very expensive jars with glass lids and rubber gaskets from Weck, which I already used to can some giardiniera, yum (see pic). I did not find them any more difficult to use than regular jars, but the shape, while beautiful, takes up a lot of room in the kettle. So I got some of a different shape from Lehman’s–the “Tulip” style jar.

I also decided to try some bailed canning jars from Italy and some old-style Ball bailed jars. Previously, I would not have considered such a thing, but I have learned a lot about canning practices in the course of this particular rabbit hole. First, I ran across a couple of blogs where people described using bailed jars for canning jams. Then I had another look at a book I rely on quite a bit, Stocking Up III, and noticed that they have directions for using bailed jars. This is on top of a couple of British books on preserving, and they don’t even go that far, settling for putting a piece of waxed paper on their jam and then cellophane wrap held on with a rubber band (who knew those Brits could be so wild and reckless, eh?). Since I am only canning jams, jellies, pickles, and spirited fruits anyhow, I will give these glass-lidded canning jars a try. I might very well try the old porcelain-lined zinc lidded jars as well, since these are also described as usable in the Stocking Up book and there are tons of these available. Lehman’s and other shops have the rubber rings for these guys.

Now I know what you’re going to say: Why be so worried about plastic and endocrine disruptors but not botulism? Well, I checked with the CDC, which is the organization that keeps track of all cases of botulism in the US. Surprisingly, most of the people getting botulism in the past couple of decades have been native Alaskans eating animal parts they fermented in plastic or glass instead of a hole in the ground. Lots more were eating commercially canned stuff or things that were not canned at all. Even more surprising to me, there has not been a case of botulism from canned jams or pickles. The big risks in home canning are low acid stuff, like non-pickled vegetables and meat (your basic tomato sauce with meat horror show). Only one time did anyone get botulism from even canned fruits. This was in 1927, and they had canned rotten pears (also a low-acid fruit). Maybe they thought the canning process would kill the rot or something. When opened, mold was clearly visible on the top of the stuff in the jars, but they ate the pears anyhow and died of botulism. I am not sure if they were desperate or crazy. The extreme mold was sufficient to change the pH of the fluid to something where botulism germs can live and shit out the stuff that kills us; they don’t like high acidity. This is one reason why you are always supposed to check for moldy bits in things you are canning.

Now, I would never use bailed jars for anything except for high acid food processed in a boiling-water-bath. And I made up my mind a while ago that I would not be doing any pressure canning whatsoever. But that said, I would rather take my chances with having to throw out some jams that got moldy because of a bad seal than a guarantee of bisphenol-A in my jam (or in my pickled turnips, as shown). I grew up seeing my mom can strawberry jam by pouring melted paraffin over it, so perhaps I have more of a tolerance for such methods. Of course, I am not canning an orchard’s worth of stuff, like some people do. Even used bailed jars are more expensive than new jars with metal lids, so I don’t know what I would do if I were canning mass quantities. Freeze and dehydrate, I guess, and hope that Leifheit, which is supposedly working on a BPA-free canning lid, gets their ass in gear. At any rate, I will post about how I do.

7 comments to Planting out and preparing for harvests: seedlings and canning jars

  • I can remember visiting one of my high school friends and being a bit horrified that her grandmother buries crocks of kimchee in the backyard. Lacto-fermentation in action, yeehah. With shrimp paste even, and other things that really ought not be fermented but can be if one is careful.

    We did the melted paraffin thing, too, when I was a kid. It only goes off if one is less than overly zealous about wiping down the lip of the jar with a hot sterile cloth before pouring the paraffin. My great grandmother was notorious for not wiping down, apparently. She’d gift us w/ jars of marmalade and blackberry jam every year which sported green fuzzy beards within a couple months.

    If I could reuse the jars I get capers and cornichons in, and can in them, I’d do that in a hot minute. Apparently the seal’s only good for the once though. BPA or not.

  • herba15

    I did not know that about wiping the rims when using the paraffin. It sure makes sense. I am fanatical about wiping the rims of stuff I am canning. Not so good about removing air bubbles, though. I usually never see them until later. I wondered if beeswax could be used instead. I always have plenty on hand because I sell it.

    I think the lids on regular jars do not contain BPA but they do have Plastisol (PVC). I also looked into that option. I did find some postings on forums about reusing such lids. Seemed like there was contradictory info about whether they would work a second time or not. These are lug lids, right? You can also just buy a bag of lids from a glass supply place. You’re talking about the invert-to-seal method, no? I think that is a pretty nifty method. Apparently, this is a major industrial method, and the Brits use it like mad.

  • Oh criminy, PVC? That’s worse than BPA. PVC is such a pervasive toxin and general problem that on the rare occasion a PVC bottle makes it into a bale of PET bottles, the whole lot has to be thrown out when the stuff is melted down for the purpose of downcycling into new product. It is less stable than other plastics. And enough of an issue that I won’t be saving the big-ass earplug dispenser jars from work as chicken feed storage anymore. I almost stroked out when I saw those were #3 resin.

    It’s an endocrine disruptor, too. PVC should have been stopped at the gate when Union Carbide was slowly killing its workers producing vinyl chloride back in the 1950s.

    Yep, I was thinking about the lug lids and invert to seal method.

    I think I need to bite the bullet and get some Weck jars like yours. I’ve been meaning to do that for a long time. The Urban Homestead book admonishes against lid reuse, and now that I think about it, it is probably about the BPA or plastisol or whatever leaching into the canned product. When you expose these plastics to temperature extremes, all bets are off on molecular stability. That is reason enough for me to not reuse.

    I’m saving all my beer bottles, but will probably be sealing with sterilized corks that I wire down like for champagne or the belgian beers, when I start messing with recipes in the herbal beers book (which came this week and I wasn’t able to put down for a couple hours). Just to avoid the plastic gaskets in bottle caps. I don’t have enough grolsch bottles at present to just use those.

    • herba15

      I was afraid of that about the Plastisol in the lids. I didn’t even look into it too much when I saw it was made out of PVC. By that time, I had plastic fatigue, if you know what I mean. The natural Scorpio desire to dig and dig for info can eventually be worn down by corporatism.

      I wish Leifheit would get off their behinds and come out with a non-BPA band type lid. I wrote to nudzh them on their German website about it. Perhaps they will answer.

      The Weck jars are nice. I just wish they didn’t cost so fricking much.

  • lovely!

    i am not so worried about sealing..i just sterilise, fill, invert and its done. mostly because i rarely make more than a can of jam at a time. most of the time, i pick the fruits, make jam..fill pie and have about half a cup in the fridge for slathering on buttered toast. but what you are doing is a whole different ball game, of course.

    i dont worry about anything when i preserve whole fruits in vodka. sugar, alcohol..its all safe..:)

    and got two pictures for you…

    everyone’s happy now.

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