Today I did something I’d never done before: I canned something.

It was a lot of hard work. There were a lot of panicky “OMG is this supposed to do that?!?!” moments, and a few times where I wished I could sprout another arm or four. But at the end of my experiment, I ended up with six quarts of beautiful, garden fresh green beans that I hope won’t give us all botulism. (Well, all of us except Wesley, who wouldn’t touch a green bean if his life depended on it.)

Heating in a massive stock pot

I followed instructions on this website, this website, from my canner manual, and from my mother-in-law. (By the way, the first website is a great one if you want to find pick-your-own farms in your area.) Consequently, I spent a lot of time running to my computer or flipping through the book. Sadly, neither the websites nor the manual gave me instructions on growing more limbs so I could do everything in a speedy manner, while everything was still hot.

Jars filled with beans.

The musical fruit

First lesson learned: Cut the beans smaller.

Second lesson learned: Boiling water is very hot.

Holding steady at 10 pounds!

It took forfreakingever to get to ten pounds of pressure. Finally it got there, and I processed for twenty-five minutes. Twenty-five minutes fraught with danger, where I kept screeching at the children to stay out of the kitchen in case the whole thing exploded.

But my canner is built like a tank. It’s an All-American, and will probably still be canning long after I’m gone.

Done!

Then more nail-biting after the jars came out of the canner. First I couldn’t get it open because it had created a vacuum. The manual suggested a screwdriver to pry it open, but also cautioned, “BE CAREFUL! YOU COULD TOTALLY SCREW IT UP FOREVER!!!” so I was nervous. I stuck a butter knife into a crack and pried gently and it popped right up.

More nerves. Had I put enough beans in? There were bubbles rising to the top. Is that normal? Is it supposed to do that? The second website reassured me that indeed, it was supposed to do that. And from their pictures, I saw that some of their jars had as much empty spaces as mine.

More screeching at the children to stay out of the kitchen, lest a jar explode. I’d just watched an episode of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman in which Grace, the cafe owner, has a jar explode in her face and it gets embedded in her cornea, so I wasn’t taking any chances.

Then came the thrill of a lifetime. I felt the way the first caveman who discovered fire must have felt.

“Ping!”

“Ping! Ping!”

“Ping!”

The lids of my jars started popping as they sealed themselves. I did a happy dance.

Victory is mine!

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