Using a Canner

You may or may not find this particular post interesting, but if you like to make your own jam then you should hear about this ancient invention my mother and I have just discovered called a canner.

When I was a kid we used to make jams and pickles all the time, and we would get the jars to seal by baking them in the oven and relying on the laws of physics as the jars cooled to do the rest.

But with this canning gizmo you can ensure that all your jars pop, every time.  And actually, Vicious Sweet Tooth pre-empted me on this one and was featured in Freshly Pressed.  I am totally trying her vanilla and nectarine preserves.

So you boil your lids as usual.But instead of sterilizing your jars and heating them in the oven you can do both steps at once in the canner.  It’s basically an enormous pot full of water, and the jars sit in a handy little cage you can lift out by the handles.So you boil those, and while they’re doing their thing you work on your jam.

Bring your goo to a boil.  In this case we’re making grape jam.  Once it’s boiling you add your sugar and pectin and make it go all foamy and thick.Once you remove it from the heat you scrape off all the foam.  You can eat it.  It’s yummy.So when it’s ready for canning, you pull your jars out of the water and drain them.Fill the jars with your jam up to 1/2″ from the top of the jar.Clean off the tops of the jars.  They have to be super clean.  Be careful not to burn yourself.Put on the lids and tighten them so they’re “fingertip tight” — this means that they are on but not tightened as far as they can go.Then you pop them back in the canner and bring the water to a boil once again.  Leave ’em about five minutes.Then you bring them out, and as soon as they cool a little bit, hey presto — POP.

Newspaper Plant Pots

I have a baby spider plant here for S that I am trying very hard not to kill.

I am also trying to root a cutting of my parlor palm for Kª.  I’m dubious about this, because apparently it’s impossible the way that I am doing it.

Anyway, today I decided that the day had come to introduce them to the earth for the first time.

I don’t have any spare small pots lying around so I surfed the internet for a while on making pots out of paper. These are biodegradable, of course, and can be planted right into the soil outside if that’s what you’re into.  Just make sure if that’s what you’re planning you use a newspaper with soy-based ink.  Because the newspaper is porous, you can put lots of seedlings close together and they will absorb each other’s water.

I found two versions that I liked.  One is the origami version and the other is the jar method.  Both need one half of a full broadsheet of newspaper (as in, not the whole square piece but the half-piece that is the individual page you turn).  Fortunately newspapers tear easily along this fold so you don’t even need scissors for this project.

Origami Method

Fold your paper in half vertically so that the two short edges match up and crease.

Fold it in half again, this time horizontally.

Aaand again, this time vertically.

Take one of the (now square) flaps of paper and turn it out into an upside-down isosceles triangle.  Flatten and crease the edges.

Flip it over.

Do it to the other side.

Now ‘turn the page’ of your new upside-down triangle to the left.

Flip it over and do the same to the other side.

Take the edge of the top flap of your triangle and fold it to meet the centre crease.  Grab the opposite edge and do the same.

Fold those edges in towards the centre one more time.

Make sure to crease your folds good and sharp.

Flip your paper and do that whole rigmarole to the other side as well.

Take the little bit of paper hanging over the top of your folds (the length of it will depend on the size of the newspaper sheet you used) and fold it down over your folds to hold them in. 

Mine were super short, so I actually used a single staple to hold things in place. 

I figured, what’s one staple to the thousands of nails and screws buried in my garden?

Now open out your box and flatten out the bottom.

Fill it up with soil or just admire your handiwork.

Jar Method

This is less complicated but less sturdy.

Fold your newspaper sheet in half, bisecting the short end.

Take yourself a jar, a can, or a glass and place it at the edge of the paper.  There should be enough paper sticking out from the bottom of the jar to fold up and cover the bottom of the jar.

Roll up the paper around the jar.

This works best on jars or cans or glasses that have a depression in the bottom.

Fold the bottom of the paper to the bottom of the jar and use the jar to squish it down.

Pull out the jar.  This version is not freestanding so you need to fill it immediately with soil to keep it steady.

Two pots.  Two minutes.