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Topic: Overcoming a Fear of Canning - or What I Did On My Summer Vacation  (Read 2348 times)
Tags for this thread: canning , canning_jar , pickle , jam , jelly , salsa , syrup , craftster_best_of_2013  Add new tag
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Mistress Jennie
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« on: August 25, 2013 02:34:23 PM »

For the last few summers I have wanted to try my hand at home canning & food preserving.  But like many other folks have said, it just seemed like such a colossal project.  What if I got it wrong and made someone sick?  What about the cost of materials?  What about the heat of my un-air-conditioned kitchen in the dead of summer?  It just seemed overwhelming.  Undecided

But, thanks to the encouragement of pinkleo and the wonderful participants in the Harry Potter Craftalong, I decided to face, and ultimately overcome, my fears of canning.  I set myself the challenge of learning about canning overall, and to complete a few projects in some classic home preserving categories.  My original plan was to create 7-11 projects, including 2-3 infusions, 2-3 pickles, 1-2 condiments, 2-3 jams/jellies/syrups, and 1-2 dry goods mixes.   Smiley

Well, it seems I went a bit beyond that!  In fact, I doubled my plan.  Grin  I ended up spending just over 40 hours, making 20 individual projects, which totaled 105 jars & bottles of food!    Shocked  The photo below shows just one jar of each project.



Here's a list of all the projects, broken down by type of food.  Whenever possible, I have linked to either the recipe I used, or to the book the recipe came from. 

Infusions: (Completed 2 projects)
   Red Raspberry Vinegar from Put Em Up!, STARTED 7/20/13; STRAINED 7/28/13
   Blackberry Bourbon from Put Em Up!, STARTED 7/20/13; STRAINED 7/28/13


Blackberry Bourbon



Pickles: (Completed 5 projects)
   Bread & Butter Pickles - 6 quarts, from Ball Pickling Spice directions, DONE on 7/26/13
   Cucumber Dill Spears - 2 quarts, from Ball pickling spice directions, DONE on 7/26/13
   Pickled Carrots & Parsnips - 3 pints, from Put Em Up!, page 147; DONE ON 7/28/13
   Zucchini Pickles - 8 pints, from Food In Jars, DONE on 8/4/13
   Pickled Brussels Sprouts - 4 pints, from Food In Jars, DONE on 8/6/13


Pickles



Salsas: (Completed 3)
   Heirloom Tomato Salsa - 3 pints, from Put Em Up!, DONE on 7/20/13
   Garden Salsa - 5 pints, from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, DONE on 7/27/13
   Jalapeno Salsa - 6 half-pints, from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, DONE on 7/27/13


Salsas


Condiments: (Completed 4)
   Bruschetta - 2 batches of 8 half-pints, from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, DONE on 8/4/13 & 8/6/13
   Boston Lager Mustard - 4 pints, DONE on 8/2/13 (Adapted from Oktoberfest Beer Mustard Recipe)
   Zucchini & Pepper Relish - 5 pints, from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, DONE on 8/4/13
   Carmalized Red Onion Relish - 3 pints, from Food In Jars, DONE on 8/3/13


Bruschetta, Mustard, and Relish



Jam/Preserve: (Completed 5 projects)
   Norton Wine Jelly - 4 half pints, from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, DONE on 7/29/13
   Cranberry Syrup - 4 half-pints, from Food In Jars, DONE on 8/2/13
   Mojito Jelly - 4 half-pints, DONE on 8/24/13
   Mimosa Jelly - 6 half-pints, DONE on 8/24/13
   Low-Sugar Blueberry & Champagne Jam - 3 half-pints, adapted from Ball Pectin Packaging Recipe, DONE on 8/24/13


Jellies, Jam & Syrup

Dry Goods Jars: (Completed 1 project)
   Cajun Seasoning Blend - 12 batches of 1/2 c. each, DONE on 8/24/13


Seasoning Blend

Cajun Seasoning Blend Recipe - Makes one .5 cup batch
(I multiplied this by 12)

3 T Salt
1 T Paprika
1 T Onion Powder
1 T Cayenne
1/2 tsp White Pepper
1 1/2 tsp Thyme
3/4 tsp Black Pepper
1/2 tsp Oregano



Finally, I will leave anyone who is still reading this, with a few words wisdom for those who wish to delve into canning. 

#1. Get the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.  It is totally affordable from Amazon, but you can also certainly find it at your local library. 

#2.  Read everything about the canning process first.  And read about it in the Ball Book.  They are a time tested company, and their recipes have been tested and perfected over those years.  If you find a shiny looking book full of pretty pictures by someone else, by all means, check it out too.  But consider the Ball Book the bible of canning.  Everything I made out of it came out exactly as described. 

#2.5. Read the whole recipe you are about to create, top to bottom.  Double check to have everything you need before you start.  Go to the store for the thing you forgot.  Then read the whole darn thing through again, just to be certain.

#3.  Some of those "other" canning books that have come out recently are great.  Others are not.  While I loved the Carmalized Red Onion Relish from Food in Jars, the book itself was poorly written.  It was not edited well, if it was edited at all.  Information was missing, and typos abounded.  Now, I can totally understand a stray typo, but you'd think they would have been worked out when the publisher had people test the recipes to make sure they worked.  Oh wait, none of those recipes came out as they said they should, which leads me to believe that no one tested any of them.

#4. Start with something simple, that you won't mind eating all of right away, if the jars somehow don't seal.  And something that doesn't require expensive ingredients.  If you are growing a pot of tomatoes on your deck, or your neighbor gives you 30 zucchini, try something like salsa or zucchini pickles.

#5. Before buying a canner pot, canning rack, etc., check to see if a friend or relative already has a set you can borrow.  You can also use any regular stock pot you have, provided it holds enough water to cover your jars by 2-3 inches.  If you don't have a rack, try using extra lid rings in the bottom of a pot instead, to keep jars off the bottom.  While you're at it, see if anyone in the family has mason jars they'll let you have, and keep an eye out at yard sales.  You will need to buy new lids and bands, but they are *much* cheaper than buying whole brand-new jars.  My friend managed to find 45 quart mason jars at a yard sale for $15.  A few inexpensive packages of lids and bands and we were in canning heaven!

#6. Go to your local farmer's market, and see if they are offering any canning classes, or canning supplies & coupons.  My market has been doing classes throughout the summer, and their organizer booth has been handing out huge amounts of coupons.  The individual vendors themselves have also been giving away batches of pickling spice & salsa spice mixes.  While I'm not huge on mixes, due to the amounts of salt, and the preservatives they add in to the keep the spice packets on the shelf for a few years, a simple batch of pickles from a mix is a great place to start.  You won't have to shell out for multiple jars of individual spices, and can see if you like canning or not. 

#7. Combine the coupons from the market, with sale prices on jars.  K-Mart had jars on sale for $7.50 a dozen, and I used my coupons from the Farmer's Market to get another $1.50 off, getting the jars for $6 a case.

#8. Given the choice between trying jam or jelly first, try a jelly that doesn't require you to do any peeling/chopping/straining.  There are lots of recipes that use pre-bottled juice, like Pomegranate Jelly, which uses Pom Juice.  Once you see how easy a jelly like that can be, move on to more labor-intensive jam, or a jelly you have to chop & strain.

#9.  Have fun, and give yourself permission to fail.  Don't freak out if your jelly is a bit soft.  Just pour it over ice cream and call it sauce.   Roll Eyes  And don't worry if a few jars don't seal.  Just use it up at home, or give it to friends to use right away.  Out of the 105 jars I made this summer, about 10 didn't seal.  It annoyed me at first, but then I tasted the stuff I made, and I didn't feel one bit bad about indulging in the delicious fruits of my labors.  (Seriously, that Sam Adams Mustard is amazing on bratwurst.  Wink)
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« Reply #1 on: August 25, 2013 04:35:36 PM »

Yeah you! That is wonderful you did all that and had a good result. Smiley
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« Reply #2 on: August 25, 2013 05:02:48 PM »

Holy cats, Jennie!  Great haul and some great advice!  I got my Ball Blue Book at a local Agway store about 30 years ago for $2.50.  I still use it every summer.  Good job, you.
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« Reply #3 on: August 25, 2013 07:32:12 PM »

You are amazing!  I used to can a lot, but I've lost the drive.  When I have bushels of pears sitting in my kitchen waiting to be bottled, just finishing becomes a priority and all the fun flies out the window.  So good for you for trying so many different things and learning that you love it!
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Mistress Jennie
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« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2013 05:51:51 AM »

Thank you ladies!
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« Reply #5 on: August 26, 2013 11:27:05 AM »

I , too, am a bit worried about making someone sick with canned food, but I do lots of jams. I admire all the diversity of canned goods you made. I did notice that many are adult/party/alcoholic though Wink!
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Mistress Jennie
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« Reply #6 on: August 26, 2013 01:56:06 PM »

Well the only one that is actually alcoholic is the Blackberry Bourbon.  The jellies & mustard have the alcohol cooked out so they are safe for gift giving even to those under age or non-drinkers.  Cheesy
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« Reply #7 on: August 26, 2013 03:02:33 PM »

Great! I have just requested the blue book of canning from the library.
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« Reply #8 on: September 01, 2013 03:50:55 PM »

Wow so much wonderful canning,  I look forward to trying some of your shared recipes sometime, I would have never thought about canning bruschetta.
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« Reply #9 on: September 25, 2013 03:54:43 PM »

Just WOW! Shocked  Truly a summer to remember! Grin
So much wondrous information, which is now driving my desire to preserve & can. 
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