|Lovely tomato jam....soooo tasty|
Once upon a time people canned and jarred their garden bounty because it was needed to get them through the winter. It was a necessity of life before markets and grocery stores were able to provide year round produce. Now a days canning seems to be a novelty or a hobby people try out to test their abilities. I do know some people who can so they remain as close to their locavore ways as possible. The truth is canning takes some planning but doesn't have to take all day- unless you are actually going to process mass quantities that is. Many of the recipes I've tried out only made 2 or 3 jars of garden goodness at a time so it didn't take that long at all.
I used to think tasks such as pickling were too much work to bother with but now I think the real issue was I just didn't know how to do it, or have the right equipment. Sure you need jars with the right size sealer lids. Some tongs or even a handy dandy jar lifter helps. Many people use the sanitize setting on their dishwashers to sterilize the jars but I don't have that machine in the Little Kitchen so I bought this ginormous canning pot from Canadian Tire many moons ago to boil the jars in. It even had a lifter jar lifter inside but I'm not too sure where that went. I have lined the bottom of the pot with a towel to keep things from jumping around too much.
|This tomato will make delectable tomato jam|
(If you are ever unsure, please make sure to do some research and find information and directions you are comfortable following. This is not a definitive list but just the steps I follow. Always follow the recipe's instructions.)
1) A clean, uncluttered kitchen: Depending on how much you plan on canning, you will need space for the jars to rest until you move them to storage. Workspace for prep food and a spot to keep things while you work is always handy.
2a) Inspect your jars. There should be no nicks or cracks in them, especially around the lip where the sealer lid needs to seal.
2b) Wash & sterilize: Your jars and lids must be washed in hot soapy water, rinsed, and sterilized to keep food borne illness at bay. I usually wash my jars before I do anything else and then pop them in the giant canning pot full of water and turn the heat on. (It will take a while for such a large pot to boil so this helps organize my tiny workspace.) Jars boiled for 10 minutes are sterilized. It is important to sterilize your funnels, tongs, and jar lifter as well so toss those in too. Some people also put jars in the oven at 225F for 10 minutes. Most recipes will tell you to keep the jars warm until ready to use (read the instructions). The oven is good for keeping jars warm without the water but keep in mind, some recipes do call for a water processing step after you put the lids on your jars.
2c) Sealer lids can be boiled separately just before using so you don't risk boiling away the sealing compound from the lids.
3) Read the instructions on your recipe a bunch of times to make sure you know what to do. I also keep the recipe at the ready to double and triple check that I am doing things right.
4) Prep your food as per instructions and proceed from there as per your recipe instructions.
5) Enjoy the popping sound of sealer lids being sealed! When it comes to the sealer lids and rings, many recipes tell you to just finger tighten until the sealer lid gets sucked in and seals out all the air, then tighten. Follow the recipe's instructions on this one. I like to store the jars with the screw rings loose so that if food spoilage happens, the sealer lid will literally pop its lid.
So far this summer I have tinkered with pickled beets, pickled zucchini, spicy pickled green beans, and tomato jam! I have failed to take photos of all these as this was my first time for all of these things and wanted to enjoy the process. I must confess that I loved the tomato sauce so much I went out to buy more local tomatoes because I didn't have enough in the garden....
Until next time, stay warm and eat well.