Well, Jill has gone and started a carnival and all, so what kind of bloggy friend would I be if I didn’t participate?
The carnival is “Things I Love Thursdays”. I think that’s pretty self explanatory! If you have something you’d like to submit, or if you want to check out what other people love (and you know you do), head over to The Diaper Diaries for more.
What I love is canning! It’s a newfound love, really more in the crush stage with a growing level of commitment. It makes me so happy, to hear those little wax seals pop after they’ve been processed. There is nothing more satisfying than looking on the shelf in February and pulling down a can of jam you made in June.
I decided that this year, not only would I further my own relationship with canning; I would involve others. I invited Bowling Alley Brunch and French Mama (sadly, she is a Blogless French-American) to come over and learn how to can strawberry jam. I had it all set up the night before; pots, pans, lid lifters, jar tongs, funnel – the works. I just had to swing by and pick up the berries. Except, there were no berries at the farmers market where I stopped. Fortunately, in a day of wonderfully mixed very new and very old technologies I called Bowling Alley Brunch on her suh-weet new Blackberry and had her pick them up at another market. We had a wonderful time and now I am going to be sad if I have to can alone.
So how do you begin canning? Start with the Ball Blue Book of Preserving. This book has been published and updated since 1909 – these folks are the experts. You can get it at Meijer, or any decent sized-grocery store. Mine is a few years old now, but it was about $6 new. From there you will be able to determine what you need, which depends somewhat on what you are preserving.
I mentioned a funnel, lid lifter, and jar tongs. The funnel is just to get the food into the jars so it doesn’t slop all over. It has a wide mouth so you don’t have to wait 50 years to fill each jar while it drips in. The lid lifter is a stick with a magnet on it. It’s a very clever tool. You have to make sure the lids you are putting on the jars are sterilized, so you keep them simmering in hot water until you use them. It makes getting lids out of hot water much easier and less painful.
I got all of these together in a kit at Menards for less than $10.00. I also have what is called a “water bath canner” which is basically a huge pot that comes with a rack. The rack is to hold the jars from clanking around while they are processed. Mine was about $20.00, also at Meijer. It looks like this:
Now don’t get all freaked out about the sterilization part. You’ll be just fine. It’s easier than it seems. If the lids don’t pop, they weren’t sealed right and you re-can that one. They always pop though.
They are available at – you guessed it – Menards and Meijer. Also you’ll need lids and bands. The lids go on the top of the jar (duh), and come with a wax rim around them. The wax is what seals the jar up when you process it in the water canner and keeps your food preserved. The bands are what go on top of those, and are threaded like the tops of the jars so when you put them on tight, it helps clamp down the lid. You can reuse everything but the lids, so it is very inexpensive to can after the initial investment.
Well, I have either comforted you by letting you know that canning is not very complicated, or terrified you in which case I would recommend another site that will do a better job.
I took an online course (for free) at the National Center for Home Preservation. I am a UGA Alum but I am pretty sure anyone can sign up for the course. I learned a lot, and it especially assured me I did indeed have the skills necessary to avoid botulism. And that’s another thing I love… avoiding botulism.