Archive for October, 2011

Improvised Canning

I finally canned something! Years ago, I remember canning jam with my aunt and my grandmother, but I’ve always been intimidated to try it on my own. I finally worked up the nerve to can apple butter this weekend, and it worked out just fine. We had some apples left over from a recent trip with friends to Apple Hill, so I decided to try the apple butter recipe from my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. When I had questions, I referred to the USDA Canning Guide. Here are my canning utensils, ready to go:

The only things I purchased for canning were the funnel, the “jar grabber,” and the jars/lids/rings. Everything else was stuff I already had – we even improvised the canner from thrift store finds! We used a huge pot I found at Goodwill for $9, a pasta insert I found for $3, and some coiled aluminum foil to keep the pasta insert off the bottom of the pot. John easily removed the handles from the pasta insert so it would fit all the way into the pot, and we were good to go.

It worked like a charm. The pot has a tight-fitting lid, so it didn’t lose much water at all during processing. I was surprised to find that we needed to add five minutes to the processing time, since we’re more than 1,000 feet above sea level.

I used the “jar grabber” to safely remove the processed jars from the hot water. I think this is one special canning tool that really is necessary. It’s technically called a “canning jar lifter,” but I think “jar grabber” is much more accurate.

It was so exciting to hear the cans make a “pop” noise as they sealed while they were cooling. My Mom told me this was one of the best parts of the canning process, and I totally agree!

The real reward for all the hard work is the satisfaction of enjoying my homemade apple butter on toast. The bread is homemade, too. I’ve been trying to perfect a multi-grain recipe. I’m not quite there yet, but I’m still eating and enjoying my test loaves!

This experience taught me that canning is not as difficult as it seems. There are a lot of steps that were hard for me to understand until I thought about the big picture of the canning process. It’s pretty much just sterilizing, filling the jars, and processing. I get confused when I look at the 20-step canning directions, but if I think of those three main steps on their own, it all makes sense. You don’t need very much special equipment for canning fruit jams, butters, and jellies. Don’t believe the hype! Just use what works, whether it’s the “right” equipment or not. That’s pretty much my attitude about most things, actually. 🙂

A Little Auto Body Work

Add “spray paint the car” to the list of things I never thought I’d do, but have now done. The factory clear coat on my 7-year-old Honda has held up very well. Unfortunately, I was rear-ended a few years ago, and the aftermarket clear coat the body shop used is definitely worse for the wear – it’s peeled off completely in some areas.

I don’t care what my car looks like, and I definitely didn’t want to pay for these areas to be repainted. Nevertheless, I was starting to get a little worried that, without the protection from the clear coat, the paint would deteriorate and the metal would eventually be exposed, making it vulnerable to rust. I plan on keeping this car as long as possible, and rusted panels are not part of that plan. I decided that it was worth trying some DIY body work to make sure things don’t get worse. I’ve never tackled a project like this before, and I was a little embarrassed when I went to the local O’Reilly Auto Parts and asked about clear coat spray paint! I knew that there was no way I would get great results by spray-painting my car, but that wasn’t my goal. I just wanted to make sure the metal body panels were protected. If it was a total failure, I’d pretty much be back where I started – needing to get those areas repainted. I came home with Dupli-Color Protective Clear Coat Finish and some 2000-grit wet/dry sandpaper.

I used the sandpaper with water to remove as much of the chipped areas of the factor clear coat as possible, and to smooth the rough edge where the clear coat had flaked off. The sanding also helped rough up the existing paint and clear coat so the new spray-on clear coat would adhere better. The transition was quite a bit smoother when I was done sanding. On the right side of this photo you can see that the paint has deteriorated some and exposed the primer underneath.

I thoroughly rinsed everything with water to remove any sanding residue, then let the car air dry. Then I masked off the areas that I was going to spray with the clear coat. I decided to spray the entire section above the rear window, but only parts of the panel below it. Most of the clear coat on that panel was in good shape, and I didn’t want to spray the undamaged sections. I masked off these areas with about 1 to 1.5 inches of undamaged clear coating around them, so the new clear coat would totally cover the flaking edge area.

Before I started spraying, I wiped down the areas to be painted with mineral spirits to remove any residue, then with water, then let it dry again. Then I got to spraying. The Dupli-Color paint sprayed really evenly until it was nearly empty. I made sure to start spraying off to the side, then used a slow, even motion to apply thin coats. I sprayed my first coat on one of the sections too heavily and it started to slump. Fortunately, I was able to quickly wipe it off with mineral spirits and start over, but I learned my lesson – use thin coats to start!

I ended up spraying four thin coats and two moderately thick coats. I found that as the coating built up, I could apply a thicker layer without getting any slumping. I was very careful to try to keep the can moving constantly and steadily while I was spraying, so the coating would be as even as possible. I think that applying multiple thin coats to start helped create an even base. Once everything was dry, I removed the masking.

There was a clear line where I had masked off the sections on the panel below the rear window. Not too surprising. The paint can said that any transition lines could be softened by using polishing compound after letting the clear coat cure for 48 hours. I waited the recommended time, then wet-sanded again, then used the polishing compound. I finished by applying a couple of coats of carnauba wax to protect the new clear coat. Here’s the before and after of the panel above the window:

And the panel below the window:

You can still see the line from the new clear coat, but it doesn’t bother me. Even though aesthetic improvement wasn’t one of my goals for this project, I do think the “after” looks a lot better! The total cost of this project, including 2 cans of spray-on clear coat, one package of 2000-grit wet/dry sandpaper, polishing compound and carnauba wax, was $32.

This project wasn’t quick, but it was easy. The prep work was time-consuming (but not difficult), and I think it was essential to achieving good results. I also think it’s important to let everything dry thoroughly and not rush into re-sanding and polishing. All-in-all, I think this was $32 well-spent to keep my car protected so it will continue to serve me well for years to come!