This year I took on a new culinary adventure; canning. With the new veggie garden in, I was thinking we would have an over abundance of veggies coming our way. What was I to do? I remember my best friend postig her canning adventures on Facebook the last couple of years so I thought “why not?” I can do this too. And my adventure into the world of canning started.
I have never been one to do things half way. As soon as I made the decision to start canning, I bought the Ball® Blue Book on the advice of my best friend. This is THE bible of canning. I poured over this book like I would any cookbook and learned the basics of water bath canning. As it turned out, we had a water bath canner! We bought it at Wal-Mart some time back as our “sangria bucket” when hubby would make a batch. It still had the rack and everything. I guess I was destined to be a canner and didn’t even know it. I also went to the store and purchased a bunch of different sized jars and all the equipment needed to do the job right.
My first canning attempt was strawberry jam. I followed in the instructions and it turned out more like syrup, although it tasted so good! As it turns out, lving in a high altitude means that water won’t boil above 212 degrees and it needed to get to 220 to gel properly. Lesson learned and now we have lots of strawberry “jyrup”, our jam/syrup combo. I knew then that pectin will be my friend.
That was a month ago and now I have completed four canning projects and taken a class through Wasatch Community Gardens. I have learned lots along the way and have some tips and tricks to share with all of you. In the class, our instructor called canning jam the “gateway drug” in canning. I kid you not, she was right. I am loving it and can say I’m addicted. The photo at the top of this post is Raspberry Mango Jam, a recipe I pulled from the Blue Book.
- Clean your kitchen before you start. I kid you not, this is important especially if it is your first time or you have a small kitchen. Free yourself from distractions and allow yourself plenty of room to move around. I found I used the entire kitchen island and then some with my projects.
- Lay all your stuff out ahead of time. Read through the recipe two or three times and lay out what you need. You don’t want to be scrambling at the last minute.
- Start simple with a jam and learn the water bath method thoroughly before using a pressure canner. I bought a pressure canner and have yet to use it. I want to do 2 or 3 more jams or pickles before I do.
- Chop/prep your food before you do anything.
- Use your dishwasher to keep the canning jars hot. You have to wash them anyway, so why not let the dishwasher do all the work? Our dishwasher is some fancy one that came with the house and has a long cycle. I don’t have that kind of patience, so I washed them in the sink then soaked them in the other side of the sink in hot, hot water. That method works too if you don’t have a dishwasher. I don’t wash/soak until my fruit is chopped so the water doesn’t cool down.
- Read the recipe. Then read it again. Then again. You want to know it backwards and forwards. Always use a canning recipe from a trusted source to make sure it’s done safely and correctly. The Ball® website is an excellent source of information and recipes. I’ll list more resources below. Be sure to pay attention to altitude adjustments. I’m in Utah and need to add 10 minutes to every recipe.
- When filling the jars, use a towel to set them on. The jars are hot, the counter is cold. Putting a hot jar on a cold counter may cause damage to the jar and/or counter. A towel has two purposes; one to keep the jar from touching the cold counter directly and two, to catch any spills. It’s easier to wash a towel then to clean up dried sticky fruit from the counter top.
- Wear an apron. It could get messy. Keep some Clorox wipes handy too.
I’m not the utmost authority on canning and still have a lot to learn. One of the most important things is to use a recipe from a trusted source and do not deviate! I’ll be posting recipes from Ball® and other trusted sources in the next few weeks. I’ll also go over the supplies used.
I am now in the App Store! If you have an apple device, go to your App Store, search “Lori’s Culinary Creations” and download the app for free.