Today, I had my first try at canning. Thanks to hotwired, I was able to figure out how to can with the water bath method. I couldn’t find a lot if canning supplies here in Miami, but I was able to find the jars, jar tongs and jar funnel. The jars I easily found at my local grocery stores. One of them even sold the jars individually for about the same price each as I would have paid for them in a 12 pack. Thay way I was able to buy an assortment of sizes with out having to buy 12 of each one. They would have been just sitting around until I had enough extra to use them all. The other items I couldn’t find anywhere until I checked in an Ace Hardware shop. There were no canners to be found anywhere. I used a large stock pot and thermometer that I already had.
Once I relaxed, everything was easier than I expected. But I can see that I will need to find a real canning pot (probably a pressure canner) soon, probably online.
I’m looking forward to trying pasta sauces, tomatoes, green beans, etc.
Thanks again to hotwired and the other people in this group who gave me the courage & knowledge to try.
Congrats. It really is easy. Once your family tastes homemade strawberry jam, you’ll wish you had made more. I canned over 100 half-pints, and I’m down to 40, and it’s only January. Fortunately I froze a lot of berries whole, so I can make more.
Canners are nice but a stock pot will work fine. Canners have a disk in the bottom that keeps the jars up off the bottom of the pot. I forgot one thing… when you are canning in a stock pot, take a dish towel and drop it in the pot, spread it over the bottom. If you’re using a gas stove, there’s a possibility that the glass jars positioned directly over the flame can break from the hot spots.
Thanks for the info, hotwired. I think I saw that you mentioned the dish towel in one of your canning posts, so I kept that in mind when I was setting things up. I remembered that one of my rice cookers had a steaming rack/disk that fit nicely in the bottom of my stock pot, so I used it so that my jars would not have to sit at the bottom of the pot. That’s something that others who are using stock pots to get started, might want to consider.
I can see why you said that I will wish that I canned more. I had a big family dinner at my house today and everyone who came happily left with a jar of strawberry preserves, as well as some fresh picked produce and some of the dinner to reheat later. I’m already wishing I had made more and ready to go back and buy jars by the box. I really do have to remember that part of the reason you can is to have your harvest through out the year, so you really do have to stock pile it. I still can’t imagine growing, harvesting and preserving on the level that you do, but I’d be happy to try to get to that point!
My canning sessions will go a lot faster and smoother in the future, since I know what I’m doing now and see that it’s a pretty fool proof process. Next time, I won’t second guess myself at every step. I really look forward to expand to canning pasta sauce, salsa, etc. I really will need to buy a canner though, probably online. One thing that I wanted to mention is that if you are considering getting a waterbath canner, I read that a lot of them don’t have flat bottoms and can’t be used on glass top stoves. The descriptions usually don’t seem to mention that, but apparently the boxes do, so you might want to look into that before you buy one online, if you have a glass top range. I don’t think that that would be a problem with a pressure canner, but I’m still looking into it.
I also wanted to mention that I made the whole process a little easier, by breaking the process down into more manageable steps, so it didn’t seem overwhelming (especially the first time).
The night before I planned on making the preserves, I gently washed & dried the berries. Then I cut them in half into a big bowl and sprinkled the sugar over them and then slightly mashed them. I then clovered them and put them in the refrigerator over night. This step helps the berries to release their juices and helps to dissolve the sugar.
The next day, I put the berries and sugar into a large pot and began to cook them for 5 minutes. I then took it off the burner and removed all of the solid berries with something like a slotted spoon that is used a lot in Asian cooking and left only the strawberry juice and sugar in the pot. I then added the juice and rind of one lemon to the pan and cooked it until the temperature came to 220 degrees. I also did the little test were you take a plate that was in the freezer, put a small amount of preserves/jam/jelly on it and then push a line down the middle of it. If it makes a small mound that holds it’s shape, then its ready. If it runs or is still a little watery, you need to cook it a little longer. Since it passed that test, I put the the berries back into the pot and cooked the whole thing a few minutes longer. It really took no time to cook the preserves since I used a big pot and the mixture wasn’t too deep. I also wanted to mention that I counted the number of lemon rind strips that I put in, so that I made sure I took the same amount out before I started to put the preserves into the jars.
The reason I cooked the strawberry juice & sugar first and then added the lemon juice and peel is first of all, because I am a foodie and I like my food to taste as good, natural and as fresh as possible, without a lot of artificial ingredients. Secondly, if you cook the ingredients to develop a gel without the berries, you help to maintain the berries color, texture and taste, so they don’t end up pale, mushy and taste cooked. I want my berries to taste as fresh as possible. And finally, I would prefer not to use any purchased pectin to make my preserves, since I’ve read the finished result won’t taste as good and the texture will possibly end up a little rubbery or gelatiny. from what I’ve read, ripe berries don’t have enough pectin on their own to gel properly, but if you add a few that still have some white on them, you will greatly raise your pectin level. Adding the acid of the lemon juice & especially the rind, pretty much guarantees that your preserves will set up properly (and quickly). You only taste a hint of lemon, which brightens the fresh taste of the berries and doesn’t detract from them. Just talking about it makes me want to do it again, but on a larger scale.
As I mentioned before, I did it in two parts. As a busy Realtor with a hectic schedule, I enjoy doing things like this to help clear my mind & unwind, possibly while watching TV, but it is important for me not to feel stressed and overwhelmed. Doing it this way keeps evrything manageable and more stress free. I think sometimes we can get too overwhelmed with even the prospect of doing things that we never even start. My mother is that way and she misses out on doing too many things that she might enjoy and benefit from. Please don’t let any task get the best of you. I’d imagine that if you are a member of Folia, you probably are up to a chllenge and you know that if you don’t have the knowledge to do something, you are surfing the site to find the way. Most things really are manageble if we find out how and then share the little insights or tricks we often stumble upon. Then we just need to break them down into manageable steps- no matter how busy our schedules are. I’m often out at midnight or early in the morning tending to my garden.
I’ll get off my soap box now but wish you all the best and hope you will always find the courage & strength to have the best garden and harvest that you’ve ever had, in this new year.