Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Can I can with you? (HAHAHA GET IT?)

Ukrainians are smart - they really prepare months ahead for the winter - they have to, because a lot of things become unavailable/difficult to do when it gets cold. One thing that is done all summer is canning/preserving vegetables and fruit when they're in season. Unlike the States, where you can walk into any grocery store in January and buy oranges from Florida, Ukraine is the size of Texas. Therefore, the climate of the whole country is relatively the same everywhere. So, the produce that's available for a reasonable, non-imported price (from about October to March) are potatoes, carrots, beets, cabbage, and onions. A lot can be made with those five delightful items, but sometimes you just crave a tomato that doesn't cost as much as a small car.

That's where canning comes in handy!

My sitemate, Maggie, went to Russian language refresher last week (a language camp for PCVs run by PC Ukraine staff - we have 2 a year), and there, they learned how to can stuff properly.

Stuff you need:

-hot water and soap
-boiled water
-lids (in Ukraine you can get a pack of about 50 for 20 UAH)
-a klyuch (sealer) - you can get them at bazaars and big stores - they're kind of expensive but worth it (about 70 UAH)

When you have all that, you're ready to start your life as a canner.

Today we started with tomato sauce - Maggie made it, and ended up with 7 jars of it and is generously giving me the 8th one (thanks Maggie!)

First, Maggie boiled a huge pot of 3 kilos of chopped tomatoes, onions, garlic, oregano, Italian spices, and 1 1/2 kilos of peppers.

While it was boiling, she sterilized the jars by first washing them all with soap and hot water. Then she poured boiling water into the jars and let them sit for 15 minutes with their lids on (to sterilize the lids too.)

Then Maggie poured the sauce into the jars, and used the klyuch to seal the lids on.

Just make sure that you don't do what we decided to do and pour the tomato sauce/whatever else into the jars while both the jars and the food are hot, and then try to seal them right away. This is what you will get (a mess of broken glass and wasted food):

If any Ukrainians read this and think, "What an idiot," I completely understand. But this just isn't nearly as popular back home as it is here, and I have to admit that I needed some instructions.
I'll definitely take this skill home with me and impress all my friends with my watermelon jam in the winter.

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