“an elementary textbook that serves as an introduction to a subject of study”
I really can’t remember what drew me to canning. It wasn’t something I grew up with: my mother steered clear of most things domestic unless required, and my grandmother, a culinary master, didn’t preserve unless she had to. But for some reason last year, I got it in my mind that I wanted to learn how to preserve.
However, canning seemed so foreign and intimidating. I assumed the alchemical process of taking something perishable and making it last for an indefinite amount of time had to be complicated. After taking a class at the Workshop one Saturday afternoon, I was dumbfounded by how easy it was. However, my confidence as a canner stems from having someone walk me through the steps and arm me with some tricks of the trade. My goal is to share what I’ve learned with you to hopefully demystify home preserving and inspire you to try it.
Canning in Four Steps
This first post in a series of “preserving primers” simply provides an overview of the steps involved with canning, so that you can see how straightforward it is. All of this will be re-posted on the Preserve page for easy reference. In addition, I’ve listed some useful books and online resources in the Enlighten page to get you excited about delving into the world of home preserving and “putting things by”.
When you are ready to embark on a canning project, I encourage you to refer to any of the resources I list on the Enlighten page – they all go into the process in detail, providing step-by-step instructions. Rent a book from the library or go to the National Center for Home Food Preservation‘s page on boiling water canning.
(Pictures are from my latest canning binge, described below)
You should start to hear the magic pinging sound
After an hour, check all the jars for seals (should be indented slightly and not pop back when you push down). Remove the bands, and wipe down. Double-check the seals by lifting up the jars by the lid slightly. Store without the bands for up to 1 year, or as specified in the recipe.
My Latest Canning Binge
For some reason, whenever I can, it tends to be in binges. For several days in a row, I’ll can one thing after the other. Last month it was pineapple jam, cantaloupe jam, roasted corn salsa, and peach salsa. To decompress last weekend, I made more cantaloupe jam and tried out some pickled onions.
Then the deluge of fruit came… my aunt gave me several pounds of pears and my friend’s mother generously gave me about ten pounds each of peaches and nectarines. I have been canning almost every day for a week straight: nectarine-plum-ginger jam (4 half pints + 1 4oz), spiced peach jam (4 half pints + 1 4oz), nectarine and cilantro salsa (4 pints), peach vanilla jam (2 half pints), and pear vanilla jam (7 half pints) + 1 4 oz). I used over five pounds of sugar and filled close to 24 jars in a week.
A few things I learned during the current binge:
– Canning is more fun with a beer and an old friend, with Cat Stevens playing in the background
– You can can something in under an hour (more on that in a future post)
– Wide mouth pint jars hold more than regular mouth pint jars (I know they shouldn’t but I swear they do)
– Nectarine salsa pairs amazingly with Indian food (it’s like a spicy chutney)
Do you have any questions about safely preserving foods? What are you excited to learn how to can? Post in the comments.