Saturday, October 20, 2012

I Can Can.

As I have previously alluded to, I tend to be somewhat...obsessive in my hobbies.  I started compiling a "canning and preserving" type birthday present for my older sister this summer as she had expressed an interest in it.  She has a beautiful, large vegetable garden, and preserving is one way to actually use forty zucchini that ripen at the same time!  I bought her Canning for a New Generation, a fantastic book that I had taken out of the library at one point, a few canning tools that she didn't already have, and then proceeded to check out every canning and preserving book I could reserve at the library.  Somewhere along the line of copying interesting recipes for her from the stack of books, I caught the canning bug.  It wasn't always pretty.  Some evenings ended like this photo (note the time on the clock, p.m.), with jars that wouldn't seal, and with the knowledge that my sweet but still-not-sleeping-through-the-night child would be wailing in a couple of hours.  A few hours after that, they would both be up for the day with much more energy than me.  Sigh.

But practise makes perfect, or at least some good jars o'jam, and some hilarious reactions from my husband to our growing collection of jam.  Little did he know that I was already onto planning my adventures in pickles.  He's a gem, just like my gem coloured jams.  He even smiled when I bought these brass duck bookends at the thrift store even after I indicated that my brass animal decor collecting was over.  Turns out that seven is perfect number of brass animals to have in the home, not five.  And four of them got spray painted, so they don't really count, anyhow.

Dollar-fifty for the pair!  Really, who could resist?

Above is a sampling of my first batches of jams, jellies, and fruit butters: Top row: Grapefruit Marmelade, Watermelon Crabapple Jelly,  Apple Cinnamon Butter, Bottom row: Blackberry Raspberry Jam, Strawberry Rhubarb Lemonade Jam, Concord Grape Jam, and Plum Jam.  The grape jam is probably my favourite.  The grapes came from my Grandma's grape vine, so they had no pesticides or other sprays, without paying the price of organic grapes.  Win.  I once bought organic grapes and it wasn't until I got home that I realized I had just paid close to thirteen dollars for a bunch of grapes.  Eep.  I've always enjoyed store-bought grape jelly, but grape jam with the grape skins has just the right balance of sour and sweet, and it's the most beautiful colour too.
Making your own jam has a few benefits over store-bought jam.  You can create flavour combinations you won't find in stores (Ginger-Peach, Strawberry-Thai Basil, or Raspberry Cocoa Jam, to name a few), it's usually much cheaper, you can avoid artificial colourings and preservatives, and it just tastes better, in my humble opinion.  I'm allergic to oranges, and after reading in all the canning books that pectin, a natural gelling agent for making jam, is usually made from apple or orange skins, I realized that I've been eating oranges hidden under the "pectin" label of ingredients for a long time.  Some recipes call for powdered pectin, but it's easy to find recipes that don't use pectin, or even to modify recipes to take out the pectin.  This also serves as a good excuse for my latest hobby - I practically have to make my own jam then, right?!
Peach jam, bean pickles, carrot pickles, and good old cukes. 
I've done all of the work on the stove after the kids are in bed because two boiling pots and two active kids are not a good combination, but just to prove that I haven't abandoned them for sweet spreads, here is some photo proof.

I love these guys!

This crazy slide at the pumpkin patch was pretty much a free fall with a big bang at the end!

A perfect day for picking apples at the pumpkin patch.  

Here are some of my picks for canning books for anyone who is interested:

Canning for a New Generation by Lianna Krissoff

 You Can Can from Better Homes & Gardens

Can It! also from BHG

Happy Jamming!


  1. Way to go with the canning! It's on my 'to-do' list for next summer: learn to can. Wasn't quite there yet this year and need to get the supplies anyway. Looks yummy! - Ann

  2. SWEET! I did do canning back in the day before R, but then I was very lucky that my mom decided to take over for me every year when the peaches come into season b/c you're right - a huge boiling pot of water and kids are a BAD combination. Plus, with the time canning takes, you know eventually your kids will be tugging at your pant leg just when you need to unload some hot jars. Thanks for the book suggestions.


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