For most of my life I have had an intense fear of pressure canners. It’s not that I’m afraid of the sight of them, but the thought of actually using one sends me into panic mode. I’ve been researching and will probably try it eventually, but since my rental home only has a glass-top stove, I can’t use one anyway.
My playroom at my grandparents’ home was just off the kitchen. I’d often watch while my grandma baked or canned. She would hum a sweet song while she worked. I’d have cartoons on the playroom T.V. while playing with my Weebles or Barbies. Totally soothing and traditional mental picture, right?
I loved when my grandmother would can soup. Split pea soup is my favorite, especially when it’s very thick. My grandmothers was filled with fresh minced onion, sliced carrots, green peas, and the ham hock leftover from her pineapple glazed ham roast. Whenever we had a ham, I knew what was coming, and looked forward to the resulting soups.
Until it all went horribly wrong.
The nightmare happened when I was about five or six years old. One bright, sunny day as I was watching the playroom television, Grandma was just finishing up a batch of fresh split pea soup. I was vaguely aware of the clanking coming from the kitchen as she set up the pressure canner and filled it with the big jars of soup.
The pressure canner was enormous and always made a slightly disturbing noise. It would wobble and clank on the burner, hissing and shaking and shooting steam from the top like an angry dragon. It had always worried me a little, but I’d gotten fairly used to it since Grandma canned with it quite often.
Grandma had sternly warned me many times to stay out of the kitchen when she was canning, so I timidly peeked around the doorway at the seething metal monster on the stove. Today it wobbled and shook and steamed a little harder than usual. I’d never seen the steam come out from around the edges before. I stared with wide eyes and a slight tremble as it shook harder and harder. It was even scarier than when the washing machine was off-balance. This time the pressure canner was thumping up and down on the stove, as if it was about to jump off of it.
Grandma had started yelling by the point. She had on her oven mitts and was trying to get to the knobs on the back of the stove, but she couldn’t get past the angrily billowing steam to turn off the heat. There was a very loud CLANK-CLANK-CLANK, followed by a huge BOOM as the lid flew into the air, struck the ceiling with a bang, then slammed onto the floor. Pea soup had erupted in a tower of green slime along with the lid, covering everything from the floor to the ceiling within a five-foot radius.
I was left with pea soup-induced nightmares for years afterword.
If you’re like me and willing to try to overcome your fears (eventually … when I get around to it … maybe), you can visit An American Homestead for pressure canning safety tips to avoid turning your own kitchen into a war zone.