Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What I've Learned (so far!) About Canning

Red & Black Raspberry Jam

I hope canning week is as fun for you all as it has been for me! It's been a challenge - a good one - to get one or two posts up per day, rather than the same number per week. It was a lot easier to post more often when I wasn't working full time! I've been canning for a couple summers now, and this week of writing about it has forced me to think about what I've learned in that time. I don't consider myself a pro by any stretch of the imagination, but I've gathered together some of what I've learned about jamming and canning. In no particular order:
  • You don't have to can. You can make a small batch, and if you'll eat it relatively quickly, you can just store it in the fridge. You can also simply freeze jam (be sure to use freezer safe containers and leave enough room for the expansion that happens during freezing).
  • Cleanliness counts. I am adamant about thoroughly cleaning my jars, lids, bands, pots, spoons, and canning tools every time. Even though they are clean when I pull them out of the drawer, I rewash thermometers, spoons, etc before I use them. It may be overkill, but it helps keep my mind at ease that I am doing everything I possibly can to make my preserves safe.
  • Practice really helps. When I first started, I was mildly terrified of everything from giving my friends botulism to making bad jam. I'm far more confident than I used to be, and, as a result, my process is more streamlined and more efficient. Also, my stress level is way down, which makes the whole process more pleasant.
  • There are some great resources out there. I have particularly found Food in Jars and Northwest Edible Life to be super helpful. Well Preserved and the Ball book are useful reads, and they have so, so much information in them. Ball also takes email questions and will respond, though it may take a couple days. They also have an 800 number listed on their website, but I haven't tried it.
  • I find this chart and the follow up post to be particularly inspiring. So many options!
  • 8-ounce jars are standard for jam. Little 4-ounce jars are good for gifting and favors. However, I've started to prepare one 4-ounce jar along with all the 8-ounce jars for each batch of jam. Start ladling your jam into 8-ounce jars. When you get towards the bottom of the pot, you may not have enough left for a full jar. This is when the little one comes in handy. More often than not, a 4-ounce jar has been the perfect size to preserve the last of the jam. Process it for the same amount of time as the 8-ounce jars. 
Peach and Raspberry Jam jars
  • Teach someone! Having to think about what you are doing will clarify tricky bits for yourself and may inspire change. 

The important part here is for you now to share your knowledge in the comments. Teach us! What has been the most important canning tip you've received? What is your favorite thing to can? What are your favorite canning resources? Where do you look for inspiration?

Earlier in Jam Week:
-Red & Black Raspberry Jam and why I don't use pectin
-Raspberry Peach Jam and it's secret, glamorous name
-10 of my tips to make your next trip to the farmers' market your best one yet

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