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A 21 quart pressure canner has taken up residence in my kitchen.

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I am equal parts excited and intimidated.

Excited for obvious reasons — for one thing,  I can stop freezing my chicken stock. I either freeze it in plastic bags or quart jars, but the plastic bags are hard to freeze into flat shapes in my freezer, and I keep breaking the quart jars. Besides that, there’s the added inconvenience of forgetting to defrost it until I’m in the middle of a recipe! (This is one kind of thing I’m trying to address through my 2013 attempt at mindfulness, but in the meantime I can’t change my spots.) And in addition to canning chicken stock, I can process tomatoes (or anything, really) in about a third of the time, and hopefully I can also process things like soups and chili. And if I get really ambitious, I can even can my own smoked salmon, Kilcher-style. This gives me a lot more options for preserving my own food than a hot water bath canner will, though I think I will continue to use both, particularly because the hot water bath canner used to belong to my mother and therefore it has nostalgic properties.

But I am also intimidated:

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And rightfully so, I think. The scene in Pirates of the Caribbean where they talk about how pirate code is really more a series of guidelines describes pretty well my basic approach to life in general, so it’s going to take some serious focus and self-discipline to make sure I feel comfortable operating this thing, especially for the first time. I don’t think I know anyone who uses a pressure canner, either, so I’m going to be flying solo here.

I have a lot of frozen strawberries that need a purpose in life, so their destiny this weekend is to become strawberry jam. I actually am not sure the pressure canner is the best method for preserving jam, so I may try it out as a water bath canner in the meantime. (It obviously doubles as both.)

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Isn’t it beautiful? It’s the kind of equipment I expect to keep — and use — for the rest of my life. Maybe someday I’ll hand it down to Will!

It also serves as a visual representation of how differently I [strive to] live now vs. a year or so ago. I have been making my own stock for a long time and started canning here and there about two years ago, but I don’t think I even knew what a pressure canner was or why I would want to use one until more recently. Now, though, I think it’ll be an indispensable part of my kitchen arsenal.

This thing looks like it means business, too, which makes me feel like I have taken a very large step in my journey toward a quasi-self-sufficient-productive home. I just hope I don’t incur any bodily injuries or cause any explosions along the way!

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