Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Tips for canning

I am not an expert on canning. My mother has made me paranoid about contamination and exploding jars. Every summer I can jams and salsa. They are both so high in sugar (and salsa has vinegar) that the risk is less than canning say - stewed tomatoes or unsweetened applesauce. I have done pickled beets, dill and bread and butter pickles too. They keep for YEARS. I know this cuz my family won't eat the ones I canned 3 years ago. I have gotten much faster at canning. The prep is always a lot of work but I enjoy cooking so it is fun for me. In the last two years when the kiddo's were babies I did all the prep one day and the cooking in the next. Today one of the local strawberry farm opened. Emily and I picked 2 - 4litre baskets. They cost $13. I bought 1 box of certo and 2 bags of sugar totaling $10. I made about 12 cups of jam. It is still cheaper than buying jam at the store but it is a lot of work. I always think that canning is not necessarily cheaper but I do it cuz I enjoy it. Plus homemade tastes SO much better. The best reason to can food is because you have a garden. This keeps your healthy vegetables year round. It cuts down on your grocery bill and you can feel good about eating less preservatives. I love opening a jar of food out of my cupboard and knowing this was something I provided all on my own. It feels like I cheated 'the system'. My trick for canning is to use the dishwasher. It saves me a lot of hassle and time. I fill it up with the jars, sealers and lids. I run the dishwasher first. While it is running I clean and prep my food. Jam doesn't take that long to cook so don't put it on the stove til the dishwasher is starting the sanitation cycle. The dishwasher gets so hot I take the jars and lids out as I need them. Keep the door closed as much as possible. The jars pop with in the hour of sealing the food in them. It works really well for me. I also freeze my tomatoes whole, fresh from the garden. When I pull them out of the freezer I just run them under hot water and the skins fall right off. Perfect for chopping into salsa for caning. Blanching tomatoes is a lot of work. This freezing way means that if you don't have enough tomatoes to make a batch of salsa all at once you just keep adding them to the freezer til you do. genius. Another super tip is if you have a friend that cans as well - do a trade. Trade jam for pickles. My friend make green tomato salsa and I make red spicy salsa so we split a batch. My aunt makes a beef chutney. I have a couple jars but I don't need a whole batch. My mom makes raspberry jam and chili sauce and I trade with her my salsa and strawberry jam. Canning also makes great thank you gifts. Who doesn't love homemade food!

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