By Jenn Fowler
From Ideas That Spark
Lately, I've seen a resurgence of interest in canning and food preservation. And it's no wonder: With canning, you can control the quality and the content of your food, save money (by either growing your own or buying in season), and end up with a product that will last you over a year.
Canning isn't difficult, and after a few sessions, you'll become a pro. I speak with authority when I say that: I taught myself how to can safely and effectively from the Ball Blue Book of Preserving, and since then, I've canned hundreds of jars of jams, jellies, pickles, vegetables, sauces and even meats. Most recently, I became a Master Food Preserver, trained through the Cornell Cooperative Extension, and now I co-teach classes in preserving.
Ready to can? As long as you follow simple food safety precautions, good canning practices and an approved recipe you'll be able to can safe and tasty food for your family. If you've never canned before, I recommend you read my tutorial on Hot Water Bath Canning -- it gives you all the directions, explains safety and terminology and lists some further resources!
3 Things to Do Before You Begin …
1. Wash your jars and rings, but buy new two-piece lids. You can reuse jars and rings, but you must use brand-new flat lids each time you can.
2. Fill your canning pot with enough water to cover your jars by 1 or 2 inches; place on the burner to start heating. It can take a large pot of water quite a while to heat.
3. Place your flat lids in a simmering pan of water so the rubber gaskets have time to warm and soften.
Now on to the recipes! These three easy ones will build your confidence and make you look like a canning rock star.
Canning Recipe No. 1: Berry Jam
Makes 6 half-pint jars
Jam, with its crushed fruit and soft consistency, appears rustic and is simle to make for beginners -- especially if you use pectin to make sure it gels. You can make this recipe using blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries or any combination -- just keep your total amount of crushed berries to 4 cups!
Ingredients: 4 cups crushed berries, 3 cups sugar, 4 1/2 tablespoons (one box) pectin
Directions: In a large saucepot combine berries and pectin. Bring to a full boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Add sugar all at once and return to a full boil and boil 1 minute. Ladle jam into jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe rims well, place a hot lid on each jar and screw a band on finger tight. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes (at 1,000 ft altitude or less -- otherwise you will have to adjust according to a canning altitude adjustment chart). Remove jars from canner, place on a towel or rack out of drafts and allow to cool overnight. If any jars do not seal, refrigerate and use.
Canning Recipe No. 2: Spicy Dilly Beans
Makes 4 pints
People love these spicy, garlicky beans. The best part: You don't have to cook the beans first, which makes this a quick and easy recipe for beginners. If you aren't a fan of spice, just leave the pepper out!
Ingredients: 2 pounds fresh green beans, 1/4 cup canning salt (not table salt -- it has additives), 2 1/2 cup white vinegar, 2 1/2 cup water, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 4 cloves garlic, 2 tablespoons dried dill
Directions: Trim and de-string green beans. In a large pot, bring salt, vinegar and water to a boil to create brine. In each pint jar, place 1 clove garlic, 1/2 teaspoon dill and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Pack raw green beans lengthwise into each jar, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Ladle hot brine over beans, maintaining 1/2 inch headspace. Bubble, adjust and add more brine if necessary. Wipe rims well, place a hot lid on each jar and screw a band on tight. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes (at 1,000 feet altitude or less -- otherwise you will have to adjust according to a canning altitude adjustment chart). Remove jars from canner, place on a towel or rack out of drafts and allow to cool overnight. If any jars do not seal, refrigerate and use.
Canning Recipe No. 3: Simple Salsa
Makes 6 pints
Here's a basic salsa sure to please a crowd. The recipe has been formulated to maintain a safe pH level. You can change the proportion of hot peppers to sweet peppers as long as you keep the total at 7 1/2 cups chopped. But don't increase the amount of onion or garlic or you might create an unsafe finished product.
Ingredients: 10 cups tomatoes (peeled, seeded, chopped), 5 cups sweet green peppers (seeded, chopped), 2 1/2 cups hot peppers (seeded, chopped), 5 cups onions (chopped), 1 1/4 cups cider or white vinegar, 3 cloves minced garlic, 2 tablespoons cilantro, 3 teaspoons canning salt (not table salt), 1 teaspoon pepper sauce (optional)
Note: Wear gloves when cutting and seeding hot peppers, and don't scratch your nose! If you get hot pepper on your skin, rinse immediately with white vinegar.
Directions: Combine all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil; simmer 10 minutes. Ladle into pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rims well; place a hot lid on each jar and screw a band on tight. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes (at 1,000 ft altitude or less -- otherwise you will have to adjust according to a canning altitude adjustment chart). Remove jars from canner; place on a towel or rack out of drafts and allow to cool overnight. If any jars don't seal, refrigerate and use.
Jenn Fowler is the New York-based blogger behind Frugal Upstate. Prior to writing about saving and sustainability, she was an army officer for 11 years. She also loves taking photos, gardening, cooking, preserving, reading and spending time with her husband and kids.
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