Canning is a great way to preserve fruits and vegetables for later use. When I was growing up my mom made delicious plum jam, but she did not can or pickle any vegetables. No canning mentor for me. Thank goodness for the internet!
Several years back, my husband and I decided to rent a community garden space to grow vegetables (check out one of my early posts on our farm plot). We paid ‘rent’ for a 30’X30′ plot and got to work. We started planting in late April-early May and by the time late July rolled around we had a bumper crop of vegetables and the bounty continued through early October. We shared much of the harvest with friends and family, but we still had tons of veggies left-over.
In an effort to save our harvest for later use (think dark, cold winter days; I knew we would want to mentally escape), I scoured the internet and book stores for good canning references, magazines, and guidelines. I had heard about the dangers of canning (exploding jars and food poisoning) and was honestly quite intimidated. After reading the basics, it seemed manageable and I decided to give it a try. I loved the process and the reward. I hope you will follow the steps I have outlined below to get started on your own canning journey.
Step 1: Collect recipes and tips
I recommend purchasing a good canning/preserving reference book. Food safety is extremely important when canning and good quality resources outline critical procedures for produce preparation, processing, and storage. Books, magazines, and Pinterest are great places for inspiration. If you are interested in a particular fuit/vegetable, search the internet for recipes. I highly recommend that you read the reviews. Many recipes do not follow proper, safe canning procedures (for example, my beloved Blue Ribbon Pickle recipe) and usually this comes up in the comment thread. If you are not sure, follow recipes in a canning reference book. The book I got started with is the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. I do not recommend modifying or tweaking recipes. They are designed to ensure appropriate conditions for canning and the quality and safety of your final product.
I LOVE pickled vegetables as a snack, condiment, or my favorite……garnish for a Bloody Mary (a great way to check off your daily veggie requirements!). Pickling is a great way to introduce yourself to canning. The recipes are relatively simple and the acid pH makes the processing more straight forward by allowing for a simple boiling water bath canning procedure. Once you are comfortable with this approach to preservation, you can move on to high pressure canning. This requires special equipment, but allows for canning of tomatoes, green beans, soup, and just about anything else you can stick in a jar. No requirement for acid pH.
Here are a couple of easy and delicious recipes to get you started on your canning journey.
This is a great recipe, but you should follow recommended canning procedures (submerge jars in water so they are at least 1 inch below the surface). I recommend the purchase of a good canning handbook that outlines proper canning procedures to avoid spoilage. Read it over a few times to determine if you might need to alter recipes you find during your search.
These carrots are fantastic. I fell in love with taqueria carrots when I lived in San Diego and had the opportunity to dine frequently in authentic Mexican restaurants. I often serve these as part of an appetizer spread or as an accompaniment to a Mexican meal. I usually can these in two sizes (4 oz. and 8 oz.) so I can have just the right portion. I have also used the same recipe and procedure to pickle jalapeno peppers on their own with just a few cloves of garlic. Yum!!! Especially on nachos.
Step 2: Collect canning supplies and tools
In order to get started, you will likely need to collect a few new kitchen gadgets. I think it makes the process easier if you purchase a kit like the one recommended below. This is how I got started and it really simplified the process. If you purchase the kit, you just need to add some jars and you are ready to go. Canning supplies are also available at Target, Walmart and Meijer in case you didn’t plan ahead.
Step 3: Get your fruit and veggies
In order to can, you are obviously going to need a source of fruit/vegetables. While most people associate canning with preservation of ‘home grown’ vegetables, this is NOT a requirement. You can use produce from a friend/neighbor/co-worker, a local Farmers Market, a CSA (community supported agriculture) pick-up or delivery, or even a nearby grocery store. Don’t be intimidated, just get started.
Step 4: Just get started.
Get your vegetables and other ingredients (e.g. salt, vinegar, and herbs) and start the preparations. Follow cleaning and processing directions carefully to avoid any food safety issues. Once you process your pickles in the hot water bath, enjoy the popping sound as the jars cool and seal. It’s definitely a good sign that everything processed correctly. Also check the lids to make sure they do not push down too far or bulge; a sign of gas production due to contamination and indication you need to discard the product of your time and effort. When you are ready to serve, it should be a little difficult to pull off the flat part of the lid.
Step 5: Share your bounty with family and friends for feedback
Canning is an adventure. I recommend sharing your bounty for feedback. This will inspire you to continue canning, try new recipes, and even advance your skills with high pressure canning.
I would love it if you would share your canning adventures, misadventures, or favorite recipes.