Canning Experiments 2011

December 4, 2011 at 5:48 am (DIY, food, Gardening) (, , , )

Home preservation of food was beginning to look like a lost art… until the recent upsurge in homesteading and DIY skill sets.  I’m certainly not immune to the trend, but home canning also holds a uniquely fond place in my heart.  Ever since I can remember, my grandmother has grown and canned all her own tomatoes, green beans, and fruits for making jams (in addition to all the veggies for fresh eating and for freezing).  As a kid, I sometimes got to help her snap beans or shuck corn or mash strawberries.  What I didn’t know was that those were already foreign experiences to most of my peers (80’s kids).

When I grew up and moved to another state for university, I had to face life without Maw-Maw jelly for the first time.  Having tried store-bought, I gave up on PB&J’s for a long time because nothing quite compared.  I know the difference isn’t just that Maw-Maw picked her berries at their ripest and used only natural ingredients in her jams; it’s also the memory of picking and cooking with her and the very familiarity to me of her land.  Now, I’m continuing the tradition in my own home… and my family’s loving the results!

Last year (2010) I found a hot water bath canning set at The Salvation Army on 12th (I love their bargain basement!) and got started canning right away.  My first attempts at jam included a tart tayberry delight that spread beautifully over Sunday morning french toast and a thick blueberry-rhubarb jam we like to call “bluebarb.”  The rhubarb came from the front yard and the berries came from a U-Pick in Richmond, so not only was everything local and fresh, but we had a great time picking at the farm!  On our way back from the U-Pick, we stopped and bought about twenty pounds of dill cukes and I made so many jars of delightfully garlicky dill pickles that I’ve still got several quarts a year and a half later.  Also, I made a mango chutney when organic mangoes were cheap at the supermarket.  At least they were in season!

This year I’ve discovered that Canadian Tire sells everything you need for home-canning, so I finally picked up the accessories I had to do without last year–jar tongs (very helpful!), wide-mouth funnel, and a magnetic wand for lifting rings and lids out of hot hot water.  I attended a salsa-canning workshop this summer to learn more and ask some questions, like “Why did two of my jars bust when processing my tomatoes?”  Answer: imperfections in new glass, chips in old glass, cold contents were added to hot jars, hot contents were added to cold jars, jars touched while in the bath, or some combination of these factors.  The class was very informal, hosted by a foodie neighbor and really just a great time gabbing with some friendly ladies.  I left with a recipe for canning peaches that sounds amazing; I can’t wait to try it next year!

This year, despite being hugely pregnant then having a newborn strapped to my chest five or six hours a day, I managed to prep and process the following:

  • 8 1/2 pint jars tayberry jam (U-pick berries)
  • 8 1/2 pint jars bluebarb jam (U-pick berries and garden rhubarb)
  • 7 pints peaches in light syrup (Farmer’s Market peaches)
  • 4 1/2 pint jars grape jelly (our neighbors have a grape vine)
  • 4 1/2 pint jars plum preserves (plum trees in our backyard)
  • 5 jars of various sizes diced German Red Strawberries (our favorite heirloom tomato)
  • 3 quart jars oven-roasted tomato sauce (from homegrown German Red Strawberries)
  • 10 pints applesauce (from fruit scavenged along 17th Ave. at Clark Dr.)
  • 5 1/2 pint jars roasted green tomato salsa (the last tomatoes from our garden)

Wow!  Looking at that list, I’m rather impressed with my efforts this year.  Of course, nothing quite compares to the sense of satisfaction seeing those colorful jars lined up on my kitchen shelves.  And, every time I open a new jar of jam or cook with my home-canned tomato sauce, I’m pleasantly reminded of Vancouver’s gorgeous but too-short summer.

For pictures of this year’s canning successes (and one failure), click here.


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