Why on Earth Would You Want to Can Your Own Food?
I actually came to canning pretty honestly. I wanted to explore long term storage solutions for garden herbs, vegetables, fruits and my growing store of spices. I discovered something interesting: Canning isn't anywhere near as scary as it appears. If you observe a few important rules, you can make hundreds of different recipes, give them away as gifts, and turn to them to make winter food prep more entertaining and delicious.
Once you start to explore the options, the offerings at the market will begin to seem paltry, too. After you taste the homemade stuff, mass market jams, pickles and chutneys will taste bland. Home canning is addictive. Don't forget homemade canned recipes can also be a healthy alternative. They typically contain wholesome ingredients and few if any of those pesky multisyllabic additives and preservatives. If stored properly, most home canned goods will remain shelf stable for 12 months or so.
Don't these canning projects sound amazing:
|Five Pounds of Fresh, Ripe Tomatoes|
- Dandelion jelly
- Peach and lavender jam
- Lemon balm jelly
- Lime marmalade
- Strawberry kiwi jam
Spicy Tomato Jam
|Simmered to perfection|
Preparing it yesterday was a treat: Leaving it to simmering on the back burner all afternoon infused the house with fall aromas -- and the welcome ghost of holidays yet to come. I have included photos of this year's tomato jam extravaganza throughout the post. Two batches (10 lbs., or about 28 tomatoes worth), yielded 9 half pint (8 oz.) jars.
You can find the recipe at the very informative Food in Jars website. It contains all the information you'll need to prepare and can tomato jam and many other recipes. This particular jam contains: ripe tomatoes (I used primarily slicing tomatoes because that's what I had left this late in the season), lime juice, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, salt, and red chili flakes. The directions call for leaving the tomato skins and seeds in as they lend the final jam some needed texture. I was doubtful, but that's exactly what happened. The seeds soften up, and the skins becomes tender.
I really like the Food in Jars recipe, but it took me a lot longer to reduce the mixture using slicing tomatoes, about five hours in a heavy duty, enamel Dutch oven on low (a light simmer) -- just an FYI. I like it thick, though.
|Prepared, canned, processed and sampled -- delicious!|
In canning, you can easily cut a recipe in half (doubling is a no-no unless you do it in batches). I was thinking: Half the published recipe would make enough to try as a refrigerator jam, saving the whole canning thing for another time. If you're too busy or not yet a convert, it might be worth considering.
Also, I used 8 ounce jars for this project, but 4 ounce jars are another option, especially for gift giving. That's enough for a pot of tasty red relish or more than a generous, spicy dollop with cream cheese.
|Mixed with Cream Cheese on a Cracker|
After this project, I'm left with a smattering of green tomatoes in the garden and plan on making a pickled green tomato relish with mustard seed next. See how a little canning prowess can make herb and vegetable gardening more productive?