As you can tell by this photo, we’ve been busy all summer canning the amazing fruit and veggies of the season. Why bother? There are a many reasons I love canning – first of all I can control all the ingredients that go into our food. I don’t have to wonder what “spices” or “natural flavors” means on an ingredient list. As a mother who needs to know what ingredients are in our food, it gives me peace of mind knowing what’s in the jar. It’s a cheaper way to obtain a high quality product, as high quality jams can cost well over $6 a jar. I can vouch for the quality of all the ingredients that I use, because I picked them out myself –in some cases we picked the fruit from the field or talk to the farmer each week at the farmer’s market. I can control the sugar content, or opt for alternatives such as honey instead. High quality, organic, low sugar jams with only whole food ingredients are hard to come by.
How to start?
It all starts with a bit of research – either online or a good book. It’s important for canning safety to follow tried and true approved recipes, especially when starting out. Acidity, cleanliness and a little practice can make all the difference when canning, because we want our food to be safe as well as taste good.
Also note that recipes and techniques have changed over the years since Grandma was canning. I inherited piles of old canning books and recipes from my Grandma, and while the recipe may still be fine, it’s good to reference an up-to-date source for the same recipe, and you can almost guarantee, the methods have changed. But don’t completely count out the old way, because years of canning in the kitchen and sound advice can be priceless. I have fond memories canning peaches with my Grandma. Small hands can be very helpful for packing fruit and pickles into a jar. I still have much to learn about staying organized and neat –while my kitchen looks like a bomb went off, hers always remained spotless and organized through the whole process.
If after doing a bit of research, it still seems overwhelming, take a class. Many times there are free classes and workshops available. Look for places that sell canning supplies, or a local farm or CSA. There are many opportunities to learn and the best part is, you will always leave the class with a jar of jam or in some cases, a whole armload of jam!
A great place to start and one of my favorite canning websites is foodinjars.com. Marisa McClellan, the author of this site has written a great canning book (that I love) called Food in Jars (of course). She covers the basics of canning, but also includes a fun twist like cinnamon, vanilla or tea in her recipes and they are easy to follow. She specializes in small batch canning which means you can have jam or pickles in under an hour. For me, growing up spending whole weekends canning with the Grandparents, this is a revelation.
Here is just some of the things we’ve canned this summer:
- Strawberry Rhubarb with Cinnamon Jam
- Strawberry Vanilla Jam
- Honey Ginger Peaches
- Honey Apricots
- Apricot Strawberry Butter
- Summer Tomatoes
There is a warm fuzzy feeling that comes from having shelves full of food that you prepared yourself. I walk by this shelf many times a day and smile. As winter approaches I will be reminded of the great memories we’ve had this summer and take pride that we can easily re-live all those fresh beautiful memories, just by opening a jar. Also, they make the best gifts, so be nice to me if you want jam this December!
Ball Jar’s getting started guide – http://www.freshpreserving.com/getting-started.aspx
Weck Jar’s canning tips – http://weckjars.com/canningnotes.php
USDA’s canning information – http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/publications_usda.html
Take care. Until next time, Lisa