We’re in the heart of canning season. Just thought I’d give you some quick tips and tricks if you’ve never done it and have considered it. It can save you a lot of money if you do it right. (Only one of the many benefits of canning your own food, but a big one!)
First, if you’ve never canned or preserved your own food, don’t be afraid. Making jams is usually the first and easiest of all items to preserve. My mother always made jam and just used the instructions that came with the box of pectin you have to buy. That’s how she taught me. Once you get the hang of making jams, then you can start work on vegetables that only require a water bath. Then work on ones that use a pressure canner.
Other items to consider:
- Borrow items for canning before you spend money. I borrowed everything for two summers before I decided that canning and preserving was something I was going to continue doing. I headed to the local library and read everything I could find on the subject to fill in the gaps as to what my mother didn’t tell me.
- Ask others for empty canning jars and other supplies you might need. I collected pieces and parts for several water bath and pressure canners. If you have to buy new, Fleet Farm or Woodmans are the places to go if you need new supplies.
When I was growing up, canning and preserving was a way of life. One quarter of our city lot was a vegetable garden, along one side were a dozen blueberry bushes, the entire lot line in back was a mixture of yellow and black raspberries. We had rhubarb, currants, gooseberries and I even recall a couple of years where we had grapes, pears and plum trees too. We went to Door County every year and picked mass quantities of cherries, combed the woods near my Grandmother’s house for wild Michigan blueberries, and found tons of wild blackberries and asparagus in what is now a parking lot for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church.
And you know what happened to all that bounty? Besides eating that food shortly after it was picked, my mother canned her as* off every summer!
If you’ve never canned or preserved your own food, don’t be afraid. We’re in the heart of berry season and making jams is usually the first and easiest of all items to preserve. My mother always made jam and just used the instructions that came with the box of pectin you have to buy.
If you want, you can buy supplies like the Ball Canning Discovery Kit and or other supplies. A $2/1 Ball Discovery Canning coupon just happened to be in today’s SS Insert. You can also find $0.75/1 Ball or Kerr Canning Jars 6/12/2011 SS Insert and $1/1 Ball Realfruit Pectin Flex Batch 6/12/2011 SS Insert.
But you might want to borrow items for canning before you spend money. I borrowed everything from my mother for two summers before I decided that canning and preserving was something I was going to continue doing. And during those two summer, I headed to the local library and read everything I could find on the subject to fill in the gaps as to what my mother didn’t tell me. After all, she’s been canning for 5o years and is on auto-pilot–she forgot to tell me a few things! The books you read about below should be available at the Brown County Library–that’s where I got them from. But fair warning, this time of year there’s usually a wait list to check some of them out.
And you can always ask around for empty canning jars. I have a ridiculously healthy supply from begging off friends and family as well as finding some cases of new ones at Big Lots and Fleet Farm a few years ago (Fleet Farm or Woodmans are the places to go if you need new supplies).
Canning and Preserving For Dummies is a great resource for the newbie. It really is “for dummies” and has a complete set of directions for water bath canning or pressure canner. From personal experience, I highly recommend getting the hang of water bath canning before you try to preserve foods that require a pressure canner. This book explains it all and also has basic recipes.
Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving This is my “bible”. While many of these recipes can be found on Ball’s website Homecanning.com, many are exclusive to the book. When my freezer was bulging with Door County cherries a few years ago, I discovered the recipes for making my own pie filling. It was the perfect solution since I usually use my cherries to top cheesecakes or pancakes and waffles. I also make raspberry and blueberry pie filling as well and it saves a lot of freezer space.
Blue Ribbon Preserves: Secrets to Award-Winning Jams, Jellies, Marmalades and More is the first of two books by someone who has won more blue ribbons at state fairs than should be allowed! Her recipes and her advice are excellent. Next year when Clementines become available, I think I’m gonna try to make my own mandarin oranges based upon the recipe in this book!
175 Best Jams, Jellies, Marmalades and Other Soft Spreads. More great recipes from the author of the above book.
The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving: Over 300 Recipes to Use Year-Round. Don’t have kids or want to try something fancier but aren’t sure you’re going to like it? That’s what this book is all about. Smaller batches and lots of neat recipes, but I wouldn’t recommend it for a newbie.
Blue-Ribbon Pickles & Preserves. This is an older book that you can buy second-hand either at Amazon or a place like Abebooks. I haven’t found a “modern” pickle book with as many unique ideas and I probably checked this out of the library five times before I decided I needed to have my own copy!
Same thing goes for the out-of-print Better Homes and Garden Presents: America’s All Time Favorite Canning & Preserving Recipes.
All this talk of Copps and the double coupons makes one think that I prefer their store over any other. That’s not really true. I’ll go anywhere to get the best deal, and there are so many things I love about Festival. One of them is the customer service I receive. Here’s the latest example.
Ever since I can remember, my mother has canned peaches. Not just any peaches. Colorado peaches. And not just any Colorado peaches: Mountain Gold peaches. And my mother is not the only one. I’ve actually had conversations with other people who say their mother or they were the same way. There is something special about these peaches that apparently makes them awesome for canning. But they are hard to come by now. For the years before Green Bay had a Woodman’s (yeah, we’re going back a few years), I remember driving to the Appleton store to get some.
The past few times we’ve canned peaches, we’ve been able to get them at Copps or Festival Foods. Two years ago we canned two cases of peaches which made 15 quarts if I recall correctly. We actually ran out before harvest time last year so I was really looking forward to canning peaches again. My older kids LOVE them and they are excellent baby/toddler food, too.
Several things happened last summer. One, I was put on bedrest 25 weeks into my pregnancy. Two, Colorado’s peach crop sucked. They didn’t even export to other states, that’s how bad it was. So no peaches last year.
I finally remembered to call Festival a few weeks ago and talked to Brad in the produce department. Because there is this cult-like belief in Mountain Gold peaches, the stores usually just sell them by the case instead of by the pound. In fact, they don’t usually put them on the floor, you have to ask because they keep them in the cooler (I’ve only seen them on the floor once and that was apparently a bumper crop year). The store only had two cases left at the time and didn’t know if they were getting any more in. I said if we weren’t there by 9am they could go to the next person. Circumstances prevented me or my mother from picking them up but guess what happened? Brad saved my phone number and gave me a call this afternoon. They got a small shipment in and was I still interested in peaches. Yes, but could we up the number to FOUR cases? He said they only had three left and I told him I’d take whatever he had, no big deal about not getting four, three would be fine.
An hour later, Brad called back and said they were able to get a fourth case from another store in the area and if I wanted, I could get all four cases. YES thank you very much, and what excellent customer service! And now you know what I’ll be doing this weekend.