Want to Save That Summer Goodness? Can It!
These days we're all into old school domesticity...doing the stuff our grandmothers did and our mothers never taught us, like sewing, knitting and even canning. For the longest time, canning seemed like a mysterious ancient skill to me, something a few people I knew did but that seemed terrifying and impossible.
Then I tried it. And it is not only easy as pie, it's easier than pie. If you can boil water and know how to wash a dish, you can handle canning.
The first thing you need to do is find a reliable source for information. Ball (the people who make those cute Mason jars) has a great site called freshpreserving.com. If you have a county extension office, they generally have good suggestions as well. The two main rules to remember are: 1) keep everything sterile and 2) process your jars long enough.
Then gather your stuff. As long as your jars are in good shape, you can use them forever and ever. They cost about $10/dozen and are increasingly easy to find. They come with a set of two-piece lids; there is the ring, which is threaded and twists onto the top of the jar, and the the actual lid, which has a ridge of sticky stuff at the edge to help it adhere to the jar. You can buy extra rings and lids separately; rings can be used until they get bent or rusty, while you need new lids each time you can.
Your other big investment is implements. The most important things are a jar lifter, for fishing the piping hot jars out of the boiling water, a magnetic lid lifter (so you don't get your sticky or germy hands all over the lid and thus introduce bacteria into your nice sterile jars) and a funnel. You can buy this as a set just about anywhere jars are sold; you'll also want a ladle.
Then you need to make sure everything is sterile. I wash everything first and then put the utensils, jars and rings through the dishwasher to sterilize; you can also boil them. You should put the clean lids in a pan of almost boiling water until ready to use. Once that's done, the most complicated part is over! All you need to do is prepare your recipe (Ball has some good ones featuring low sugar and low salt options) and fill and process the jars according to instructions. Check the seals, and voila! Delicious summer fruit, preserved!
Do you can or preserve summer produce? How?