This summer I’ve fallen in love with canning. Each step I take away from the grocery store and processed foods leads me in to a new territory. Before this summer, I was petrified of canning. I (and the media) had built it up in my head that canning was somehow dangerous. But, with a little time spent reading up and a little extra precautions with cleanliness, I have a few shelves stocked for winter. Canning shouldn’t be scary!
Below I’ve outlined everything I’ve canned and towards the end of the post I give you links to resources and a few tools of the trade. I have to warn you though, once you start, I’m not so sure you can stop!
The Fruit: Large Cucumbers (Purchased 14 of these bad boys at the farmers’ market for a $1 each.)
The Recipe: Bread and Butter Pickles (a fav!)
What I use them on: My mother and I both love pickle and cheese sandwiches! However I’ve also been know to eat these straight from the jar. Plus, the leftover juice makes a great addition to egg salad and deviled eggs!
*A quick note about sugar. I don’t really keep sugar in my house, my go-to’s are honey and maple syrup. However, when it comes to canning, there are some recipes that just can’t do without it. Sugar is part of the reason some of the recipes stabilize so well. Since I don’t usually use a lot of sugar in my house, I make an exception for canning and purchase organic cane sugar from the bulk bin.
The Fruit: Ripe Peaches (purchased at the farmers’ market for $1.50 a pound)
The Recipe: Peach Salsa (times three)
What I use this on: I used this pretty much in place of it’s tomato counterpart. This works great as a dip for tortilla chips, a topping for tacos, and sweet/spicy topping for eggs in the morning.
The Produce: Sweet Red and Yellow Onions (purchased at the farmers’ market for $1/pound)
What I use this on: I fell in love with this when I was visiting Indianapolis. I had an awesome veggie sandwich with lettuce, carrots, onion relish, and a lime/honey dressing. These also work well on grilled cheese and grilling you might be doing!
Other great onion recipes: Pickled Onions
The Fruit: Strawberries (I bought a whole flat of berries for $25 at the Indy farmers’ market!)
The Recipe: Honey Strawberry Jam
What I use this on: Toast, Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches, Bagels, and the occasional goat cheese crostini.
*Although pectin is a “naturally occurring substance” that mainly comes from apples-if I can avoid it, I do. It’s just one more thing I have to buy and one more thing I have to add (when I’d rather not!)
The Fruit: Grapes (Given to me for free by a family friend)
The Recipe: Concord Grape Jam
What I use this on: Toast, Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches, Bagels, and the occasional goat cheese crostini (Just like the strawberry jam!)
Other great grape recipes: (really, about the only thing I can think to can with only grapes is jam!)
The Fruit: pickling cucumbers
What I use this on: nothing- I eat this as a snack!
Other great cucumber recipes: See above!
The Fruit: Tomatoes (all picked as part of my CSA share- which is awesome!)
What I use this on: nothing- lots and lots of things! The salsas make for perfect pairs with any of the Mexican dishes I make (like tacos, enchiladas, and tostadas) while the chutney is a fantastic addition to the grilled cheese sandwich. I plan on using the tomato-basil sauce for lasagna and pizza during the winter while the regular sauce and stewed tomatoes have already been earmarked for veggie chili!
*Side note about tomatoes. There is some concern about canning tomatoes without a pressure canner. From what I’ve read, it’s all about acidity and in order to make sure you are fine, simply add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, lime juice, or vinegar for in to each pint or two tablespoons of any of the acid-products into a quart. Some tomatoes are acidic enough but I’m under the school of though, “better safe than sorry!”
I thought it also might be helpful to show you the main tools I use when it came to doing all of this. I did invest a little money into this whole business but I have a feeling come December- I’ll be happy I did. Most of this stuff I got at Farm King (yes, I live in a place with stores labeled as such) but you can really pick up any of this where you can find canning supplies.
1.The stock pot comes in different sizes but mine holds up to 9 pints or seven quarts (which is about all I can at one time.) The rack is important because it allows water to flow under each jar, allowing even heating.
2. If you plan on making pickles the salt and crock are also important. Regular table salt has been processed and includes and anti-caking agent which can throw off your canning. The crock is a good-old stoneware than can either be purchased at an antique store or a canning supply place.
3. Canning takes a sterile environment and having these tools will help a bunch! The first in a grabber that pulls the jars out of the boiling water, the second is a magnent that pulls the lids out of the boiling water, and the third is just a good set of tongs. Other things you will need include a funnel, ladle and wooden spoons. I recommend buying a cheap canning kit
3 1/2. Other important items (but ones you should already have at home) include a stock pot (for cooking the salsas, jams, etc), colander, and clean dish towels.
4. A mandolin slicer. I used this outside of canning but it can really be a time saver when you have onions coming out your ears. I also love this for making bread and butter pickles because it ensures that every pickle is the same thickness!
5. Of course you will also need jars! The great thing about glass jars is that you can reuse them year to year the cost goes down a lot by the second year! All you need is new lids. I love my ball mason jars but if I had a bit more money, I also love the look of the weck jars! When buying jars, also look for the ones that are freezer safe. If a recipe gives me 1/2 jar, I’ll often stick it in the freezer!
- You might notice that almost all of my recipes that I canned are fruit (and highly acidic). This is because lower-acidic produce takes a hotter environment that only a pressure canner can give you. Produce suitable for hot-water bath (and no need for a pressure canner) are: Fruits (apples, berries, cherries, grapes, oranges, peaches, pears, plums, rhubarb, tomatoes.) Also, cucumbers and hot peppers are great for pickling. Veggies ( such as asparagus, beets, carrots, corn, zucchini, and peas) require a pressure canner. I highly recommend you check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation (not only a lot of good information but a few good recipes too!) To tell you the truth, I haven’t invested in a pressure canner. Almost everything I want to can is safe with just a hot water bath and the veggies that need a pressure canner are often the ones I freeze anyway!
- Veggie broth takes a pressure canner (and would be the main reason I would buy one!) However, for right now, I simply freeze my stock in ice cube trays and once frozen, pop them in to a freezer safe container. Obviously if you have a pressure canner- veggie broth is awesome. Here’s a quick overview of how appropriately pressure can veggie broth.
- I store my canned food in the basement (a cool, dry place.) In doing so, my canned goods will be eatable for up to a year (and maybe a little long- but I doubt they will make it that long!)
- I love this canning 101 from Simple Bites. It prepares you on the best way to be sterile and shows you all the information you need to know to start canning. Once I got my system down of washing the jars, boiling the jars, cooking the ingredients, canning, and sealing- the whole process seemed simple!
- Montana State University has a handy PDF that shows the processing time/altitude adjustments all on one page for water baths, pressure canners, and if you live in Montana-a handy guide for each county!
- I also gleamed a lot of good knowledge from The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest She also provides the best time to harvest for canning along with instructions for drying, freezing, and/or using a root cellar. Other good canning books include: Put ‘em Up!, Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry and Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round
Hopefully this gets you started in the right direction of canning! Of course there is a lot more information available along with many other recipes (I’ve been eyeing this jalapeño one!) Just a few internet searches and you should be on your way!