Friday, July 27, 2012

The Art of Preserving Part I: Starting Out

I have had a few people ask about canning so I thought I would do a three part series over the next three weeks that talks about what you need, some tips and tricks, and a few recipes also. I learned how to make jam while I was living out in Newfoundland. The family I lived with spent quite a bit of time during the summer and early fall harvesting local berries and jarring and preserving them. I was amazed at the time they spent doing this, but once I learned how I realized it was all worth it!

My mom bought me this book at a garage sale, and it is an awesome resource for all kinds of preserves. The first time I made jam by myself I used the recipe in this book for strawberry jam and it turned out really well. These recipes are traditional jam and preserves, but nowadays for jam most people just pectin, and pectin boxes come with recipes inside them. However, I would recommend an older recipe book, if you can find one on your grandmother's shelf or at a used book store perhaps, and take a look through to see the traditional canning process.
So what do you need? Above is the basics for making jam. Jars, sugar and pectin. Many recipes also call for lemon juice, and of course you need fruit! And below is a simple canning set you can get at most places that sell other canning supplies. It includes leveler/measurer, magnet to pick up sterilized lids, tongs for pulling jars our of boiling water, and a funnel that fits exactly to smaller jars. I mostly use the magnet and the funnel, but the whole kit is useful and definitely affordable.
As you probably know all the tools and jars that you use need to be sterilized. Make sure the jars are clean and dry, and I usually put them in a low temp (175F) oven during the cooking of the jam. The jar lids and all the tools you will be using, including any spoons or ladles, should be doused in hot water. I usually put all the tools in a large bowl or measuring cup and pour boiling water over top.
Finally, making jam can become a bit of an obsession so you should make sure to have a cool, dry place to store all your pots! I had to make some space in our pantry but it was well worth it to stash all our homemade jam!

I hope that is a little helpful, now you can run out and get all the supplies you need. I will be back next week with the cooking process, and a couple easy recipes! So far this year I have made strawberry, raspberry and blueberry jam - I think I might try mixing a few soon :)


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