I’m sitting with my morning coffee and enjoying the view; the view of course being a load of home canned produce sitting by the stairs waiting to be moved to the storage room. This has been a good growing year for our area and the abundance from the garden can get a little overwhelming during harvest. I still have plums, pears, tomatoes and pickles to can. If you’ve never done it, you should consider giving it a try. Even a small amount of store bought fruit can be diced up and cooked into some of the tastiest jam you will ever eat. I’ll just go over a few tips and tricks here and later this week I’ll be posting a few how to’s as I work my way through a pile of canning and yet more jam making.
When bringing in the fall harvest its important to save yourself some trouble later by picking clean… What does this mean? As my grandmother taught me, it means pick a little slower and keep the stems, leaves and other debris out of your box/bag/basket. This will save you from some seriously tedious cleaning when processing your produce. I also find that using a box or basket when picking larger fruits and vegetables works better as its easier to sort through the produce to see whats ripe (of course the fruit/vegetables at the bottom of the box ripens first so you have to dig a little). Its also important to note that fruit gives off ethylene gas as it ripens, which when trapped inside a plastic bag can make the fruit ripen very very fast and although this can be good sometimes, it can also create a lot of ripe and ready fruit all at once. Once the fruit is inside its important to give it a quick look over daily so that you can be prepared when its ready. Ripe fruit and vegetables won’t wait; many a gardener has experienced the late night canning/freezing marathon when the timing hasn’t worked out well with their schedule. If you hate fruit flies it will also help to give your produce a quick rinse when you bring it in.
So you’ve got piles and piles of good food sitting and staring at you – now what? Plan what you want to make with it and find your recipes. Even preserving just the straight goods involves a recipe. For instance, to can beans you’ll need a brine of water and salt to cover them with in the jar and fruit usually uses a syrup made of sugar and water. Care to experiment a little? You could make relish, jam, soup, sauces, syrups and any number of different kind of pickles (if you’ve never tried pickled beets or mustard pickles…)
Next up you’ll want to make sure you have all the tools necessary. I know Bernardin makes a good starter kit for the water bath canner which will have most of the stuff you need. You’ll need either a water bath canner or a pressure canner. Now a water bath canner is simply a large pot with a rack in the bottom that allows you to submerge the sealed jars and boil them. A pressure canner allows you to boil the jars under pressure. While a water bath canner will work well for high acid foods such as fruits and jams, you’ll want a pressure canner if your planning on canning low acid foods like beans or meat. Some other tools of the trade:
- Now of course you’ll also need jars with rings and lids
- another must have is a jar lifter, those suckers are hot when you go to pull them out.
- a funnel for getting the food into the jar
- a pot for prepping the lids and rings
- plenty of tea towels and cloths
- non-metallic spoon or knife for letting air bubbles out of the filled jar.
Once you have it all together the fun can begin. I hope you’ll join me in the next few days as I post more canning how to’s. Got questions? Ask away!