It is canning season! No matter where you live, chances are that some sort of fresh produce is currently in season, waiting for you to process it into preserves. So make a visit to your local apple orchard or U-Pick farm, and get canning! Here’s some tips to get you started.
Use a trusted, well-tested recipe. Canning recipes need to be chosen from a trusted source and followed closely so that your final product is safe. Over time, you’ll learn what changes you can safely make and which ones you can’t. Swapping one spice for another is often safe, as long as you use the same quantity, for example, but increasing the amount of onions in your salsa is not, as it will change the overall acidity. The National Center for Food Preservation is a great place to start, as is one of Ball’s canning books or their website, FreshPreserving.com.
Keep it local and seasonal. One of the main benefits of canning is that it gives you the ability to preserve the flavors of a season to enjoy all year long. Can produce when it is in season and scope out your sources. You can often get the biggest bang-for-your-buck at a U-Pick farm or from your own garden. Occasionally, vendors at your local Farmers’ Market will offer boxes of “seconds,” bruised or damaged produce at a low price. While you don’t want to use seconds for whole fruit preserves, they can be great for jams, jellies and sauces. Just cut out the damaged spots and use the rest!
Can things you’re going to actually eat. We love swirling jam into plain yogurt, making parfaits with fruit preserves and having homemade salsa for our taco nights. I got way carried away with making fruit butters in my first summer of canning though. Two years later, we were still struggling to finish eating them all. But we ran out of crushed tomatoes and strawberry jam in a snap. So think about how you’ll use your preserves.
Preserves make excellent DIY gifts. When you’re planning out your canning projects, keep in mind that jars of jams and jellies make for excellent holiday and hostess gifts. Package a jar of jam with a loaf of fresh bread, or pepper jelly with all the makings of a great cheese board. Or just tie the jars with a pretty bow and a nice tag and put a few in a gift bag!
Store your finished jars properly! Keep your preserves in a dark space at room temperature until you break the seal, at which point you should keep them in the refrigerator. If you’re using the common two-piece lids (a flat lid and a metal ring), be sure to remove the ring before you store the preserves. If you leave the rings on, you won’t be able to tell if the seal has broken due to spoilage. Finally, store the jars upright.
For more on the details of the canning process, check out this Canning 101 post.