I clearly remember thinking people who canned peaches were nuts. Heck, my husband was not-so-quietly shaking his head while I was canning some nectarines this summer. But grocery store produce seems increasingly suspect these days. And more importantly, in New England it can be just plain hopeless in the late winter and early spring. Once you’ve gorged yourself on fresh produce all summer long, the stuff flown in from Mexico tastes like cardboard.
To my surprise, a couple comments on my Warm Applesauce post asked for guidance on the canning front. So here are my thoughts just in case you’re interested in canning but aren’t sure where to start. Please know that I still consider myself a novice. When in doubt, please spend some quality time with the National Center for Home Food Preservation guide.
One thing I do know is that not just any recipe can be thrown in a jar and put up safely. The acidity level of the food is important. Follow recipes specifically written with canning in mind. This is super important for every bit of canning you do. No botulism for you!
Be patient with yourself and take your time in gathering equipment and recipes. In the Spring, look for canning supplies at places where farmer’s wives would do some of their shopping: rural grocery stores, the Tractor Supply Company, or even hardware stores. Heck, I’ve even noticed supplies on an end cap at Target the past couple times I’ve been there!
When you’re ready, just jump in and do it. It’s only really going to make sense after you’ve done it a few times. I started out with lots and lots of jam. But I’ve seen Bread & Butter Pickles referred to as a good beginner recipe as well.
(Bare Bones) Equipment and Supplies you will need:
- Canner with a rack that fits inside
- Jar Lifter
- Mason jars and lids (pint, half pint, or quart-sized depending on what you’ll be canning)
- Pickling salt (fine-grain salt that contains no idodine)
My favorite book for the beginner is The Busy Person’s Guide to Perserving Food. Barbara Kingsolver mentioned this book in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. All the recipes I’ve tried in this book have been stellar and they aren’t overly fussy (e.g. Quick Dill Pickles, Sour Pickles, Pickled Beets) . In addition to all the information on canning, the book contains instructions for freezing, drying, and root cellaring individual foods. This is the first book I’d go to find out how to put up a load of potatoes for the winter, what the best way is to keep blueberries, or how to make raisins.
Another book I’m into lately is Put ‘Em Up by Sherri Brooks Vinton. Her Bread & Butter Pickles have been a huge hit around my house. and the Frozen Roasted Garlic is a keeper. There are a ton of recipes that have peeked my interest, but I have yet to try like Caramelized Onion Confit, Corn Salsa, and Chili-Tomato Jam.
To distract you further, here are a list of links some of which are an endless source of canning information and inspiration:
Local Kitchen – Homemade Applesauce
Garden of Eating – How To: Canning
Canning Across America – Resources
Simple Bites – 9 Good Reasons to Can Your Own Food