Guest Post: A First Time Canner Makes Blueberry Jam

I don’t often run guest posts, but I do find that it’s nice to occasionally include a voice other than my own. Today’s guest writer is Todd Van Patter from the blog Foodie’s Arsenal. He is an able cook but a very new canner. This is his account of his first preserving experience (aided by my cookbook!). Thanks so much for making one of my recipes and writing about it, Todd! 

For whatever reason, I’ve never tried canning before. I realize that in our convenience culture it’s more of a niche skill or a hobby for the culinarily ambitious, so I’m not exactly alone in my cluelessness. But I have every reason to be all about canning, and it just hasn’t clicked until now.

I grew up in a family of good cooks and pretty good gardeners; my wife and I care a lot about our food and are always looking for ways to simplify our lifestyle; I have a food blog where I write about such important things as being better foodies and learning skills to get more out of your food on a frequent basis. I even grew up in Central Pennsylvania, come from Pennsylvania Dutch heritage, and have a surprising number of Mennonite friends. But still no jars. So I guess my canning destiny has been a long time coming.

The final push I needed came from Marisa and her awesome book. She didn’t ask me to promote it or anything, but I’ll happily do so because it’s my kind of cookbook. Laid back, thorough explanations, enticing recipes and pictures, and just a little nerdy– it’s exactly the kind of canning book I would have pictured if I knew I wanted one so bad. So I’m really glad to have Marisa’s guidance be my gateway into the canning world.

Anyway, I gave it a shot, and I’m hooked. Right now is the perfect time to learn to can if you’re interested in it, with summer gardens headed toward harvest and farmer’s markets bursting with color and variety. The couple of jams and fruit butters I’ve tried so far have turned out well, and since I’m lucky to have a strong gardening/preserving culture here in Harrisonburg VA, I know that I’ll continue to learn great ways use this new skill in my own food adventures.

I decided to share my debut canning experience with you all using Marisa’s Blueberry Jam recipe from the Food in Jars cookbook, since blueberries are one of my top favorite things on the planet. Thanks to you all for hosting me here and letting me add my voice to the mix, and I hope that you’ll also come follow along at my blog, Foodie’s Arsenal, where there will soon undoubtedly be a lot more canning recipes popping up.

Todd’s annotated version of my blueberry jam recipe is after the jump. Thanks again, Todd! 

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Boston Events: TAGS! Eat Boutique! Create-a-Cook! Whole Foods!

Hey friends! I’m just dropping in with a reminder that I’m headed to the Boston area bright and early tomorrow morning. Here’s the scoop.

On Thursday, July 19 at 6 pm, I’m doing a blueberry jam canning demo at TAGS Hardware in conjunction with Porter Square Books in Cambridge, MA. I’ve also packed a number of preserves from my pantry to serve up at this event, so make sure to come hungry. Click here for more information on that one.

On Friday, July 20, Maggie Battista from Eat Boutique and I are teaming up for a potluck. We’ll be gathering at her place to eat, drink, be merry and sign books from 7 – 9 pm (we’ll have them to sell if you don’t have one). The event is free and we just had a cancellation, so there’s still one spot. Click here to sign up.

I’m teaching two classes at Create-a-Cook on Saturday, July 21. Currently, they’re both sold out, but it never hurts to grab a spot on the waiting list.

Finally, there’s a last-minute addition to the Boston-area line-up. From 11 am – 1 pm on Sunday, July 22, I’m doing an apricot jam canning demonstration at the Woburn Whole Foods Market in Woburn, MA. They’ve got my book in stock, so if you’ve been meaning to pick up a copy, come on buy and get a signed one!

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Winners! Cuppow and Ball Equipment!

As so often is the case, time has gotten away from me a little and I didn’t manage to post the winner of the Cuppow giveaway on Thursday. However, I thought I’d grab the momentum of the two giveaways I ran this week and post both winners right now.

Cuppow initially offered me five sets of their canning-jar-to-travel-mug-converters to giveaway. But then, they sent me a few more. So instead of having just five winners, there will actually be eight people getting them. Pretty exciting, huh?

The winners are:

Commenter #44: Kay
Commenter #215 : Amy
Commenter #503: Beth
Commenter #571: Barb
Commenter #619: Shana Rae Burns
Commenter #779: Laura
Commenter #797: Jeni
Commenter #799: Sheryl

I just have one Ball Canning Home Discovery Kit and case of jars to giveaway, so the winner list isn’t nearly as dramatic. Still, I’m certain it’s just as fun for the winner! And lucky person is commenter #328, Robin W.

She said, “I love this site and all the inspiration you give me, my family and friends have certainly benefited in the belly with delicious goodies. I plan on making some blackberry jam on Saturday.”

Robyn, I’m so pleased to hear you like this site! Blackberry jam is one of my favorites, I hope you enjoy it!

Congratulations to all the winners! I’ll be in touch shortly.

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Preserves in Action: Yogurt Breakfast Bowl

I’ve eaten the same breakfast every day for the last week and I have every intention to continue the streak for as long as I can. It consists of a couple spoonfuls of Greek yogurt, blueberries, a chopped peach, a sprinkling of granola and a generous spoonful of jam. Right now, I’m finishing a jar of peach jam from last summer, but when that’s gone, I plan on moving to apricot.

I realize it’s not a groundbreaking suggestion for how to get your preserves moving from jar to mouth, but sometimes the simple things are best. How are you guys using your preserves these days?

In other news, there are a couple things I’d like to share beyond what I’ve been eating for breakfast. In the last week, I had the surreal experience of having a lifelong dream come true on two separate occasions. Last Friday, I was a guest (along with Sharon Astyk, author of Independence Days) on Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane. Then, earlier today, a segment I recorded about fermented pickles for All Things Considered aired. As devoted an NPR junkie, it’s been something of a thrill.

Last thing to note is that there are a couple of blogs currently hosting giveaways of my book. If you’ve not gotten a copy yet and want to try your luck, click over to Macheesmo and Canning Across America for more details.


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National Can-It-Forward Day + Giveaway

This Saturday, July 14 is National Can-It-Forward Day. Organized and hosted by Jarden Home Brands (the owner of Ball and Kerr), it is designed to be a day dedicated to the celebration of home canning. This year, the live events are centered in Minnetrista, a cultural center in East Central Indiana, founded by the Ball family.

Even if you’re not in Indiana, you can still participate in the day’s events. You can watch a series of live canning demonstrations as they’ll be streaming them throughout the day on the Fresh Preserving website. All the recipes they’ll be making are listed here, so you can even can along! It’s also not too late to invite a few friends over and host your own canning party. Pull out the canner, dust off those jars and make something delicious!

In honor of National Can-It-Forward Day, the nice folks at Ball have given me a couple of items to give away to my readers. I have a Home Canning Discovery Kit and a case of jars of your choice for one lucky reader.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me what preserve you’ll be making (or eating!) this Saturday.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm east coast time on Friday, July 13. Winner will be chosen at random (using and will be posted to the blog on Saturday, July 14, 2012.
  3. Giveaway is open to US residents.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left on the blog, I cannot accept submissions via email.
Disclosure: Jarden Home Brands is providing the units for this giveaway. They also provided me with a canning kit, an assortment of pectins and a Home Discovery Kit.  

Classes and Events: Philly! Horsham! New Jersey! Lancaster!

On Monday, I wrote about some of my upcoming events. In order to round out the balance of the month, here’s the rest of what’s coming up in July. I’m also throwing in a couple of events in early August, since time seems to be passing so quickly these days.

(Click here to see my events July 11 through July 22.)

On Monday, July 23, I’ll be at the Callowhill Whole Foods Market from 5 – 7 pm doing an apricot jam demo in the produce section. They’ll have books on hand for sale and I’ll have samples of fresh, hot apricot jam right around 6 pm.

Tuesday, July 24, I’m teaching a class at Pennypack Farm and Education Center in Horsham, PA. This three-hour class (6 – 9 pm) will be an introduction to boiling water canning and will feature dilly beans and peach chutney. The class costs $40 and you can sign up by clicking here.

At 2 pm on Wednesday, July 25, I’ll be talking about canning and signing books at the Mercer County, New Jersey’s Lawrence Headquarters Branch Library. Books will be available for purchase and I’ll be bringing a couple of treats from my pantry.

For those of you in Bucks County, I’ll be at the Ottsville Farmers’ Market on Friday, July 27 from 4 – 8 pm, signing books and answering canning questions.

On Sunday, July 29 from 12 noon – 2 pm, I’m teaching a canning class at the very elegantly appointed Cook in Center City Philadelphia. We’re making spiced peach jam, a gingery plum chutney and quick-pickled cucumber pickles. The class costs $85 and is kept small so that students have the opportunity to ask questions and really observe the process. Click here to sign up.

On Thursday, August 2, I’ll be at Greensgrow during their CSA pick-up and market hours, selling and signing books and answering canning questions. Stop by from 3 – 7 pm!

Friday, August 3, you’ll find me out in Lancaster, PA for an evening of events. Many thanks to Betsey Gerstein Sterenfeld, owner of Essen Cooking School for helping set up the following events.

  • 4 – 5 pm, I’ll be at DogStar Books (401 W. Lemon Street), signing books and saying hi.
  • 5:30 – 6:30 pm, I’ll be teaching a canning class at Lemon Street Market (241 W. Lemon Street). That class costs $20 and you can sign up by clicking here.
  • 7 – 9 pm, I’ll be at the Essen Cookbook Club at Manheim Township Public Library. Attendees are asked to bring a dish to share from (or inspired by) the Food in Jars cookbook. This event is free, but reservations are required. Click here or call 717-391-8270 to sign up.

On Saturday, August 4, I’m teaching a class at Indy Hall in Philly. This class runs from 11 am – 1 pm and will focus on low sugar canning. I’ll walk students through the steps of using Pomona’s Pectin and offer tips on making a satisfying jam without a lot of sugar. Click here for more information and details on how to sign up.

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