Over the years that I’ve been keeping this blog, I’ve written at length about my personal canning practice and the many jam, pickles and other preserves I’ve cooked up. And because this site is as much my personal record as it is a collection of recipes, you’ll start to notice something interesting if you dig back through the archives. As I’ve canned my way through season after season, my approach has gone through a gradual series of shifts.
Where I was once devoted to minding the temperature of my jam to determine set, these days, I’m more apt to listen, look and feel my way to the gel point. There were years when I felt fearful to deviate from my three favorite spices, but now I infuse jams and chutneys with lavender, thyme and the occasional pinch of fiery chili flakes.
My style of recipe development has changed in other ways too. I use less sugar (I realize it might not look like it, but really, I do). I rarely add water to jam (in the early days, I didn’t understand that in most cases, there’s plenty of liquid in the fruit). I try to fill just as many jars with savory foods as I do with sweet things. And I make smaller and smaller batches.
One of the things I’ve heard many times over since my book came out is how liberated people feel when they discover that canning doesn’t have to be the hot, sweaty, day-long process that they learned from their parents. I’m here to say that you can have the canning liberation each and every year.
You see, this is the time to take stock. To evaluate what worked for you this season and what didn’t. To decide that you might just want to let go of a few recipes or techniques that don’t happen to fit into your kitchenlife anymore. And to realize that just because you’ve always done something one way doesn’t mean that you’re locked into that method for all eternity
As we head into the time of year when the emphasis is more on the emptying of jars than it is filling them, pay attention (and even take a few notes). Observe which jars go first. Are there jars languishing in your fridge, open but unloved? And are there particular preserves that were so labor-intensive that they end up feeling too precious to open (I’ll confess to having a few of those)?
How has your canning practice evolved?