DIY – Canning basics

The process of canning things to keep them for the long term can be lengthy. My fellow Oakland Local Blogger Jess Watson did a post on canning with a great breakdown of the costs. Connecting with your neighbors for foraged fruit is a great way to score fruit for jams. Another way is to tell your farmer’s market vendors you are canning and want their less desirable fruit. I’ve gotten reduced prices when I’ve requested the ugliest fruits. The Berkeley Bowl also has a section for not-so-nice produce for 99 cents a bad (usually about four pounds of produce).

Before we get into actual recipes, I’d like to give a bit more detail on the process of canning. Canning is very straightforward, but very involved.

The equipment:

A very large pot – If you can anything that is a quart size, you will need a pot that will hold enough water to cover the quart jars by at least 1 inch.
A jar funnel – this wide mouth funnel will save you a ton of time ladling stuff into jars. Also, it’s important to seal the jars for the rims to be clear of food stuff. A funnel will ensure a clean seal.
A jar tong – to lift jars out of boiling water.
A ladle – to scoop the stuff into the jars.
A magnetic lid stick (optional) – a plastic stick with a magnet at the end to lift up metal lids from boiling water.

The process:

1. Preparing the stuff inside. It could be a pickle where you simply blanch the vegetables and prepare the vinegar brine. It could be jam. It could be produce like tomatoes you want to can for the winter (requiring the requisite blanching and peeling).
2. Sterilizing the jars. It’s always important to sterilize the jars to ensure your food won’t spoil. Simply put the waters in water. Bring to a boil at boil them jars and lids for at least 10 minutes.
3. Filling the jars. Just remember to wipe down the rims to ensure a proper seal.
4. The final boil. Once filled and with the lids on, put the jars back in to boiling water and let them boil for a designated amount of time. For things like jams and pickles where vinegar and sugar and natural preservatives, you will only need to boil for about 10-20 minutes. For whole produce like tomatoes or fruit in syrup, you will have to boil them much longer (like 40 minutes) to ensure sterilization.

In the summer, the varieties of produce to can and capture their summer ripeness is dizzying. The downside is that no one wants the vats of boiling water heating up their kitchen. In the winter, the cold and dry air makes the vats of boiling water the most enjoyable. Unfortunately, the variety of produce available is limited. But there is produce to be had.

My favorite website is Food In Jars, an urban canner in Philadelphia with a tiny kitchen. My favorite recipes using winter fruit are:

Pear Vanilla Jam

Pear Cranberry Jam (I sub in the juice and zest of an orange for the lemon juice)

Barefoot Contessa Marmalade

Cross posted at oaklandlocal.

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