I was filling out a form the other day that asked if I had any hobbies and realized that these days canning is my hobby. In the past I have gone through a gamut of hobbies including sewing, embroidery, braided rugs, quilting, painting, stenciling, bead making, birdhouses, crafts of all sorts, gardening, cake decorating and on and on. Once I have throughly experienced a hobby, I own it and move on to learn something new.
There have also been periods of time when I collected things like cow themed items, birdhouses, folk art, cook and craft books. During the time I collected cow things, I was living in a rented house in a rural area. My kitchen was completely decked out with cow towels, framed pictures, tiles, salt and pepper shakers, dishes and lots of other collectables. Of course I thought it was just beautiful. One night I woke up to the house shaking. I thought I was experiencing my first Pacific Northwest earthquake. I laid in bed (not necessarily the correct thing to do in an earthquake I now know) and waited for it to pass. Next thing I knew my housemate came running in yelling, "what is going on?". We ran out to the kitchen in the dark and looked into the night through the sliding glass door out to the porch. All we could see was a sea of black and white. The house kept moving. Outside was a herd of local Holstein cows that had broken through a fence and found my backyard garden for a midnight snack. My friend and I huddled in the kitchen watching the cows rubbing against the house and shaking it. They were huge. Seemed like we watched them for quite a while and then we heard whistling. The farmer must have received a phone call from a neighbor, had gotten up, dressed and was coming up the road on his tractor loaded with bales of hay. Those cows took their sweet time responding to the farmer and each one of them made sure to leave me a present while they ate my entire garden. One by one through the yard they ambled to the street and followed the tractor back to the farm happily chewing my vegetables.
Next morning my yard was a mess decorated with a truckload of free manure and a ruined garden. I marched into the house and took down all the cow items and packed them away. I have never bought another cow themed item since.
These days I am collecting more practical items. Everywhere I go I look for canning equipment. Now being the Frugal Fraulein I am not looking for new full priced items but bargain or free items. If you are not a yard sale addict you might not be appreciate the thrill of the hunt on Saturday mornings. Getting up early, equipped with a mugs of fresh coffee, Tim and I venture out on the quest through the unknown to find treasures. Sometimes I scan through websites or post free wanted ads and people actually call me to give canning items that are cluttering up their garages or items they inherited from Grandma that they don't know what to do with. Each item has a history and has logged hours of work lovingly preparing food for a family. Here are some of my finds and keep in mind I have just begun and never spend more than a couple of dollars on anything and free is my ultimate goal. I am finding have multiple items is making canning easier as well.
Lifters are the easiest to find. I now can't imagine canning without a couple of them standing by. Usually I find they cost ten cents at yard and estate sales.
Funnels come in glass, aluminum and plastic. The first canning funnels were made of glass and are collectors items. I am on the hunt to find one. I have seen them on EBay running around fifteen dollars. I will find one out there somewhere.
Some people are choosing not to use anything made of aluminium for health reasons and the same story goes for plastic. I have not become that fanatical and figure the few seconds the food passes through either the aluminum or plastic funnel is out weighed by the final product. I do not use any aluminum pans to cook with at all any more. I am looking for a stainless steel funnel and an antique glass funnel. Too bad Pyrex doesn't make glass ones.
Timers are really turning my eye these days. I love the older ones because they usually have large numbers and are easy to read. I like having one for each canning pot and not having to do math to figure out when to take out jars at the correct time. My friends are thinking of me when they yard sale and are picking them up and turning them over to my collection as well.
Dippers and straining spoons. There are so many designs out there. My favorite it the large one that was given to me by a very dear friend who is a chef for the stars. I use it when I dip fruit in boiling water to loosen the skins. One home I visited had a collection of restaurant equipment for sale. I scored industrial spoons and huge stainless steel bowls and a colander. Now I can not imagine canning without those bowls and colander. The usual kitchen colanders just don't hold the quantities that the industrial monsters can. When you are canning cases at a time big is beautiful.
Pressure canning weights are really hard to find. I suppose it is because they are small. Often I see old pressure cookers and canners but they are missing the weights. Without the correct weight they are useless unless you want to use the heavy duty pot for cooking or as a planter in the garden. Therefore I always pick them up when I see them.
Antique lids and rings are getting harder to find. Most are made from zinc and have porcelain on the inside. Warning. I would never use these to actually can with. I only use them in the kitchen for dry goods and I have used a couple to make canning jars lamps. There are fixtures out there that are easily available to make lamps that can hold collections of things, dried beans, Lego's or other small objects in keeping with a room theme.
Now certainly none of my collection is large and impressive enough to bring to the county fair. Have you seen the displays of collections usually in the Grange buildings? I have to admit I have wondered what possessed people to spend so much effort collecting Mickey Mouse or Star War memorbilia but now I am guilty of the same obsessiveness. Do you have a collection of canning items that you could tell us about. Please leave a comment and tell us about them. Oh and if you have a glass funnel you would be willing to spare, I know a really good home that would love to have it!!!!!