Efficacy Means I Can

“I’m worried I might poison my family.”


My friend’s reason for not canning echoed in my head. It was simultaneously ridiculous (because it is easy enough to see and smell if the food inside the jar is rotten) and serious (because we do not have teachers to make everyday tasks not seem insurmountable.)


I decided to revisit my posts on canning and share them with her. Posts, yes, I believed I had multiple. I only had one. Yet, like my friend, it did speak to both the silliness and desperation that accompanies learning something new.


After reading the blog post from five years ago, learning was evident. For example, my dad and I now speak a common language about jars: what kinds of food are best in which jars, which type of jar is the easiest to work with, and that needing lids means just lids, no rings. I smiled, and then I paused on the exchange below,


“Seriously, how long can it take tomatoes to reduce?”


“A LONG time if you’ve got the wrong, too juicy tomatoes.”


The question above was a question asked by someone who believed that if the context could be just right, (1) purchasing the correct variety of tomato, (2) picking the perfect amount of fruit, (3) waiting the designated period, success would occur.


Today, I knew the answer to the tomato question was not straightforward. The solution was not found completely in what I had on my countertop. The question about tomato reduction taught me that success depended on my own action. To can more tomatoes than water I learned I needed to drain my tomatoes through a colander at least two times prior to cooking and two to three times while cooking. This process yields half of a five-gallon bucket full of water, an amount unlikely to reduce.


“Seriously, how long can it take tomatoes to reduce?”


“Well, that depends on you.”


The largest difference between the text in the blog post and my conversations today was both my ability to describe my actions and willingness to take responsibility for those decisions. During the conversation with my friend, I had described without hesitation my critical thinking around the excess tomato water. Since my learning often reverts to my professional life as an educator, I connect it to the difference between advocacy and efficacy. I can.


This year I had my own example. In fact, I was in the middle of my own rolling boil of self-doubt. I had been told, or at least thought I was told, I could not use large jars in a small canner. This year my number of jars and limited shelf space pushed me back towards canning in quart jars. I attempted to borrow a large canner. My once enthusiastic mentor now lived in an assisted living facility and my dad, my intermediary, did not carry my message. I was unsuccessful at someone else contributing to my success.


I Googled prices for ‘large’ canners and read no language that said the canner size determined the jars. The product descriptions read simply, will fit x number of quart jars and x number of pint. I read the canning manual. Instructions described the amount of water that needed to cover the jars and how long to process jar contents but said nothing about their size versus the canner size.


“What if I poison my family?”


Ridiculous. Serious. Still, I had to know if my understanding all along had never been a matter of possible, just someone else’s practical.


Four quart jars fit in my canner. Four quart jars sealed the first time.


Efficacy. I can.

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