I started canning and preserving foods about 8 years ago, when my son was born, in an effort to relive some of the memories from my childhood. The first year, I made one batch of Ollalieberry Jam, from berries picked in Watsonville. Each year, I add something new to my repertoire – now I am up to Peach, Nectarine and Plum jams, canned tomatoes, apple sauce and apple butter, and bread & butter pickles. Mostly, I give these away to friends as hostess or thank you gifts, and my kids eat a great deal.
Just recently, I began preserving as a way to lengthen the season for some of our favorite fruits and vegetables. Our CSA offered tomatoes last year, perhaps I will capture green beans and corn as well. There is really nothing better than pulling a jar of summer tomatoes out of the garage in the middle of winter for a sauce!
Friends have asked how to get started in canning, so I thought I would put together a series of posts about preserving food. Together, we will make Peach Ginger Jam, and I hope that this guide will help you every step of the way!
Step 1: Equipment
Before you get going, you need to make sure you have the right equipment on hand. Here is my recommended list:
- Canning jars (1/2 pint or pint jars) with two piece lids
- Water bath canning pot and jar rack (this usually comes as a set)
- Large pot (you will actually make the jam in this)
- Jar lifter
- Tongs (the OXO tong with grips are my favorite)
- Wide-mouth funnel
- Food thermometer
- 8-cup glass measuring cup
- Slotted spoon
- Several clean kitchen towels
Most of these items can be purchased at your local hardware or kitchen store. Keep in mind, you can reuse canning jars and the outer rings, but you need to use new lids every time. Also, while most of my friends and family will tell you I am not the best housekeeper, I do start with a fairly clean kitchen. Keeping unwanted visitors out of the newly preserved foods is a good thing, as Martha would say.
Step 2: Recipe
Once you have the above equipment in hand, you will need to decide what to make. I started by making straight-forward jams, using recipes from the National Center for Home Food Preservation. I have also found great recipes using the Food Blog Search, including one from Warda of 64 sq ft kitchen and another from Delicious Days. Whatever you decide to make, you will need to find fresh, ripe fruit for the project. Ideally, that would come from a tree in your backyard, but don’t be afraid to ask neighbors or colleagues for extra fruit. Some farms offer a pick-your-own option, and I also visit a local farmer’s market for fresh summer stone fruits. The average recipe needs 5-6 cups of chopped fruit, about 10-12 medium or 3-4 pounds.
OK, now you have the equipment, the recipe and the fruit. Tomorrow, we will talk about the mechanics of making jam!