What a year I've had in the canning niche of my life. It's gone from a hobby about which I was enthusiastic to a passion in which I involve myself on an at-least-weekly basis. My canning pot stays on my stove's back burner, just waiting for its next turn. My jars and tools remain at the ready, my stash of labels ever-growing. I've put up countless pints of jams, jellies, pickles and chutneys, enjoyed them with my family, and gleefully gifted and sold them to others. The classes I've taught have been wonderfully fun and rewarding, enabling me to hone my craft, share it with others and get to know some great people in the process. Although my intrepid, stainless, looks-as-good-as-it-did-when-I-bought-it Cuisinart stock pot more than suffices in my jamming endeavors, this morning I treated myself to this Kilner pan. Isn't it handsome?
As you, perhaps, seek to expand your own experiences with food preservation, I thought I'd share with you the resources, tools, recipes and so forth that I've found useful, successful, disappointing and so forth.
First off, websites and books that are GREAT!
Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and the associated website
National Center for Home Food Preservation at the University of Georgia: its website and book, So Easy to Preserve; the book draws from USDA guidelines for safe canning.
Food in Jars: the website and Marisa’s new cookbook, Food in Jars
Canning Pantry: one source for personalized, stylish jar labels
My Own Labels: another great source for labels, tags and such
Some of these tools are necessary; others will make your canning experiences much easier and more fun!
Freshest possible ingredients- Don’t use substandard ingredients; taste will suffer! Canning pot- a tall pot which can accommodate your jars and enough water to cover them during processing Canning rack- a pot insert that holds your jars safely in place during processing, preventing anxiety-producing sounds and cracked jars Jar lifter- silicone-covered tongs which make putting your jars into the pot and taking them out much safer and easier Stainless steel ladle- You need a ladle to fill your jars; stainless won’t leach or melt. Stainless canning funnel- A funnel reduces the chance that you’ll spill valuable jam over the sides of the jar; this makes a mess, is sticky and you risk burning yourself. Magnetic lid lifter- This simple tool helps you lift your lids out of your canning pot if that’s where you heat and soften them. Bubble remover- I use a chopstick, but you can also buy tools made specifically for bubbling your jams. Jars, aka Mason jars, popular brands include Ball, Kerr, Weck, and so forth Lids and bands, or rubber rings if using Weck Pectin- liquid, powder, all-natural (Pomona’s); I don't use much pectin, but these are some popular options. A good thermometer- I prefer the Thermapen but you can use a very reliable candy thermometer or the like too. Food mill- useful and/or necessary for certain recipes
Recipes I found disappointing:
Pickled Rhubarb and Strawberry-Vanilla Jam from Food in Jars. I adore Marisa and her site, but the rhubarb ended up (not long after canning) a unpalatable mush, and I just couldn't cotton to the straw-vanilla mix. Boo.
Sour Cherry-Apricot-St. Germain Preserves from Mrs. Wheelbarrow. This tasted great in the jamming pot, and the ingredients are sublime, but the end product lacked in complexity and flavor and didn't set in any way. Bummer.
Stand-out Recipes- there are too many to list here but some tops are:
Food in Jars' Pickled Garlic Scapes- wow!
My Plum-Basil Jam
My Love Letter Jelly
Food in Jars' Strawberry-Rhubarb-Orange Jam
My Peach-Apricot-Almond Preserves