A Canning 101 Round-up

zucchini with personality

Last year, I started writing a bunch of posts under the heading “Canning 101″ to help address some of the questions I was getting. Now that we’re in the depths of canning season, I thought it was time to highlight some of those posts, since many of those questions are coming up again.

Why You Should Label Your Jars Promptly – I ran into this issue just this weekend, after making a bunch of apricot and peach products. I piled the jars on the dining room table as they were done and cooled and then realized that the peach sriracha sauce looked an awful lot like the straight apricot jam. Label as soon as the jars are cool!

How to Ensure That Your Jam Sets – There are so many variables in jam making. Read through this post to understand all the factors and save yourself the disappointment of runny jam (though truly, even runny jam is delicious).

Why You Shouldn’t Can Like Your Grandmother – Canning science has evolved over time. Educate yourself!

How to Store Finished Jars – Cool, dark place with the rings off, please.

Why You Can’t Can Your Family’s Marinara Sauce Recipe – Make sure you’re using a recipe that’s safe for canning.

How to Pack Jars For Shipping – Lots of bubble wrap.

How to Can Creatively and Still Be Safe – There’s some useful info here on reducing sugar.

Why You Shouldn’t Double Batches of Jam – It’s damn hard to cook all the water out when you make huge batches of jam.

I’m always looking for new Canning 101 ideas. Let me know if there’s a topic you’d like to me to address!

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Sunday Night Eye Candy from the Food in Jars Flickr Group

Every Sunday night, I feature a few photos from the Food in Jars Flickr group here on the blog. These are just a few pretties from the last week. If you’d like to see your photo featured in this site, please head over to Flickr, join the group and start adding your images.
sriracha 3

Homemade sriracha sauce from one of my favorite potters (truly, I salivate over her work), Melissa Bridgman. Her blog is here and her Etsy shop is here, should you be in need of a bit of pottery.

peach & fig jam

A colander of preserves from Gypsy Forest. I love how this looks, almost like the jars had been plucked straight from the trees.

Apricot & amaretto jam

Apricot and amaretto jam from Melissa, The Boastful Baker. If it weren’t for the fact that I’ve already done more than a dozen pints of apricot this year, I might take a stab at this variation.

pickled radishes and carrots

Mmm. Pickled radishes and carrots. Both of these make incredible pickles. From Flickr user and blogger Ma Vie En Food.

syrups, foams, sauces

A collection of jam foam from food preservationist, baker and lacto-fermentation lover Rebecca. She blogs at Cakewalk (you should all be reading her site, because it’s incredibly well-written and useful).

chive flower vinegar

Chive blossom vinegar from Flickr user Jax House. It takes me back to the beginning of the canning season, when each jar was fawned over. These days the canning is a bit faster and more furious.

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Ball Home Canning Discovery Kit Winner

It’s time to announce the winner of the Home Canning Discovery Kit! Thank you to everyone who entered, I really enjoyed hearing about what you’ve all been canning recently.

And for those of you who confessed that you haven’t yet managed to pull out your canning pot this season, I say, hop to it! Summer is fleeting! August is nearly here! Put up just one or two tiny batches before the stone fruit is gone and all you’re left with is storage apples and winter squash. Be like the ant.

The winner is Jenny, who said, “Do refrigerator pickles count? I made those last summer. My 5yo (at the time) niece went crazy for them. Are all small children salt addicts? I saw a brochure for this Ball Canning set at the Phoenixville Farmer’s market. It looks so cool. I want one.”

Congratulations Jenny, you want one, you get one. And as far as I’m concerned, fridge pickles most certainly count.

For those of you who didn’t win, fret not. There will be another giveaway soon.

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Slow Cooker Canning*: Apricot Peach Butter

peach-apricot butter

Yesterday was a two slow cooker day in my apartment (and apparently, I’m not the only one turning to a slow cooking during this heat wave). My six quart crock spent eight hours cooking a pork butt in unctuous submission (in a slurry of tomato butter, plum jam and cider vinegar) while my vintage four quart workhorse turned nine cups of peach and apricot puree into five cups of fruit butter.

Now, I’ve posted about fruit butters before. There’s my basic post about how to make a fruit butter. The orange-rhubarb butter. Strawberry-rhubarb butter. Blueberry butter. Tomato butter. There’s even a Q&A devoting to clarifying issues around making butters in the slow cooker. Obviously, this is well traveled turf in my kitchen and on this blog.

But it’s worth mentioning again. Because it’s so damn good and easy. This most recent butter of mine combines five cups of apricot puree with four cups peach puree (the proportions were born out of what I had in my kitchen, you don’t have to be wedded exactly to what I did).

Combine in the slow cooker and cook on low for 8-10 hours, until it reduces by nearly half (prop the lid with a wooden spoon, so that the steam can escape). Add sugar to taste (this batch received 3/4 cup granulated white sugar). Process with an immersion blender should you want a finer texture. Funnel into jars (leaving 1/2 inch headspace) and process in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes.

That’s it. You can use more sugar should you feel the need. You could add a little bit of cinnamon. A vanilla bean in the slow cooker along with the fruit could be nice. Lemon zest should it need a zing (this batch was plenty tart all on its own).

Eat on yogurt. Pair with cheese. Stir into oatmeal. Spread on toast. Love. Enjoy.

*Before you ask. No, you cannot process jars in a slow cooker. You can ONLY use it to cook a preserve.

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Canning 101: How to Make a Recipe Yours

potluck pickles

They say that there’s nothing new under the sun. And when it comes to canning recipes, that’s doubly true, particularly since it really is important to stick to tested recipes when you’re putting things in jars. I know that lots of you wonder how it’s possible to develop a canning recipe that feels like your own when you’re working within these confines. As I come to the end of my cookbook process, I have a few things I’d like to share about my own process and the steps I go through in developing recipes that feel uniquely mine.

First off, copyright law states that it’s impossible to copyright a list of ingredients. That means that essentially, a recipe becomes your own in the introduction and instructions. This is particularly true with things like jam and pickles, where the possibilities for grand scale deviation are fairly limited.

That doesn’t mean that you can copy and paste someone else’s ingredient list into your own blog or manuscript, rewrite the instructions and call it yours. You need to make it. Tinker with the seasoning levels. Adjust the volumes slightly to better fit the ingredients you have available*. Those incremental tweaks eventually lead to a new recipe, that coupled with a headnote and instructions written in your voice, becomes something you can call yours.

Of course, even after you’ve worked your way through a recipe, massaged the ingredients and fine-tuned the spices to fit your palate, it’s still always good manners to indicate where your inspiration was found. In my cookbook, there are two recipes that were heavily inspired by the work of other canning bloggers. Even though the recipes I sent to my editor were markedly different from the ones I had originally seen, I felt that those items still bore the fingerprint of the original writers and so I stated that in the head notes of those recipes.

When I head into the kitchen to make something new, I will often cast around for a bit of inspiration. I’ll look at cookbooks and blogs to see how other people have treated the ingredients I have on hand. I look for themes, various techniques and where the similarities and differences are. Then I close the books and browser windows and head into the kitchen without any of those sources. That way, I can allow myself to be guided by the produce but with a framework of solid technique and understanding about how ingredients will come together.

Sometimes the results are magical. Those are the recipes I post, publish and share.

For more on the attribution of recipes, make sure to check out this post that Sean wrote on Punk Domestics last week.

*Always take care to ensure that if you’re reducing volume levels, that you keep the proportions of acidic ingredients the same, so as to maintain safe levels of acid.

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Home Canning Discovery Kit Giveaway

Canning Discovery Kit

I had every intention of putting up an Urban Preserving post tonight about small batch apricot jam. But instead, I’ve spent the evening working myself into a frothy panic over the cookbook revisions I must turn in tomorrow by 3 pm. Who knew I could get myself so worked up over different styles of fruit measurement?

So I’ve decided to give myself a pass tonight, skip the recipe and move straight on to the giveaway that was going to go at the end of that post. The apricot jam will hold for a day (or two). I know you guys understand.

plastic canning rack

The nice folks at Ball have given me one of these nifty Home Canning Discovery Kits to give away to a lucky Food in Jars reader. These are great for beginning canners, as well as those of you who are fans of smaller batches. That green plastic basket can stand in for canning racks and large pots and will work in any pot that will hold it (and provide a bit of boiling room up at the top).

Here’s the “fine print”:

  1. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post and tell me what you’ve canned most recently. If you have a blog and wrote about that particular canning endeavor, feel free to leave the link.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm eastern time on Thursday, July 21.
  3. Giveaway is open to U.S. residents only (apologies to my more far-flung readers).
  4. One entry per person, please.

Disclosure: Ball (aka Jarden Home Brands) has provided the canning kit for this giveaway. While they didn’t send me a canning kit (the pictures above were from a giveaway I ran last year in which I bought the kit myself), they did send me some of their new canning tools for review (that post will be up when I can wrap my brain around it). Though I didn’t actually express any opinions in this post, had I done so, they would have all been mine and would be totally uninfluenced by the box of goodies. You get the picture.