Everything old is new again, so the saying goes. Canning and preserving is no exception, and it’s definitely back. For starters, canning is “on trend” with several current food philosophies – like eating locally grown foods more often, practicing more sustainable lifestyle habits, limiting the amount of preservatives and additives we eat, and relishing (pun intended!) the gift of nature’s bounty. Canning also gives us the freedom to create our own special and unique flavor combinations. Our food, just the way we like it – power to the cook!
Canning, Preserving and Pickling, Oh My!
So, what is canning? And why is it called “canning” when it’s actually done with jars? Canning is simply preserving fresh food. Pickling is a specific type of canning done with a high-acid (vinegar and salt) solution. While home canning is done in jars, commercial canning is done in tin cans, and glass and plastic bottles and jars. No matter the vessel used, the canning process is about preserving fresh food.
Your Food, Your Way
Have you ever been disappointed with the flavor of a store bought jar of salsa but had to use it because there wasn’t time to make your own? Did you know that many of the mint jellies on the grocery store shelf are actually made from apple jelly with mint flavoring (and green food coloring) added? Wouldn’t it be great to open a jar of home made peach pie filling for a quick pie or turnover dessert – even in the middle of winter? How about your own BBQ sauce, minus the high fructose corn syrup? These kinds of specialty foods are “difference makers” – foods like peak season preserved fruits, vegetables, salsas, chutneys, jams, jellies and sauces that elevate a meal from just “okay” to memorably delicious.
If you’re new to canning, start with boiling water processing which requires no expensive specialty equipment. Use a reliable source to learn about the canning process and to find trusted recipes. The USDA has extensive “how-to” instructions and canning recipes available for free online. Manufacturers of canning jars and supplies also have useful information online, and the library or bookstore has recipe books for canning, all with detailed how-to information. Start with small batches of something simple, like strawberry jam, to get used to the methods, then grow from there.
Lastly, have a little fun on the printer and create cute labels for your creations – you’ll have hostess gifts ready to go all year long.
Let’s get canning – a big, bountiful world awaits!
These are a couple of our favorite resources for canning information and recipes:
Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, Edited by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine
USDA Guide to Home Canning, 2009 Revision – this is available for free online and has loads of information!