Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Adventures in canning

After making all that jam last weekend, I was completely inspired. I can totally do this! Originally, I had planned to freeze enough berries and peaches (they seem to be the only fruits that freeze really well) to get me through the winter. It seemed the easiest way to stay on the local diet, which as of March includes all fruits as well. But this whole canning thing - this opens up a whole new realm of possibilities!

The thing is, I need to start small and get some practice before I hit the full season. I'm particularly interested in canning local pears. We have really tasty local pears in the summer (my dad and step-mom used to make me lots of pear butter - one of my favorites). It would be wonderful to be able to eat them all winter, but when pears hit the market, I won't have time to dilly dally. I'll need to be a serious canner. How to practice? How to practice?

Right! I have WAY more citrus in my fridge than I can possibly eat before it goes bad. And I've been saving the large canning jars from the mixed fruit my Dad brings me from the market in Hempstead. All I needed were brand new lids, which I picked up at the grocery for about $2.  I did some research on-line and discovered how to make a light sugar syrup. I sterilized the jars in the dishwasher, peeled and separated the fruit, heated up the syrup, boiled the lids, packaged the fruit in the juice, and sealed the jars up. I turned them upside down (inversion method) for 5 minutes, then back right side up. I was a little nervous about them sealing, but all three of them did. 

Unfortunately, within a couple days they popped back open. Bummer. So then, how to proceed? Next, I need to try the hot water bath method of processing (boiling the jars rather than inverting them). This should keep them from unsealing and it helps with the sterilization. I went ahead and ordered a canning kit (with the extra moola on my giftcard - I still haven't used it all) and plan on picking up an inexpensive stock pot later this week (I don't want to ruin the inside of the non-stick pot and it's not really large enough anyway).   

Well, so it didn't work out this time, but I'll try again soon. I just need a little extra equipment. So keep your fingers crossed and stay tuned. More experiments... I mean adventures in canning to come!


organicneedle said...

Be careful sterilizing in the dishwasher. I have heard some scary stories. You might be better off doing the old fashion boiling method. Might be worth investing in the gear with your leftover gift certificates. those peels. You can dry them out and mix them with your homemade yogurt for a face scrub!

Heather said...

Yep. You're right. Just had one of the citrus jars pop. I'm going to do the boiling method next. That's probably the safest route. I tried to do it tonight, but my pot just isn't big enough to boil the jars in. Will get the huge one on Friday and try it again this weekend.

Heather said...

Just updated the post so that no one tries this method.

Theresa said...

Thanks for posting about this! I am leery of the whole canning thing - I have visions of exploding jars with glass everywhere! But you've given me hope that I can do it, and I will start small too, like you are doing.

Heather said...

Theresa - Ahh! I have the same fear as the jars are boiling and then cooling. I left the new round of boiled jars in the kitchen yesterday and when I came back to see if they had sealed, I peeked around the corner first, expecting the worst!

So far so good though. This last canning job was small (just two jars). I boiled the jars first, then prepped the syrup, added the fruit and syrup to the jars, put the lids and rings on, then boiled the full jars for the required 10 minutes. So far so good.

It's totally worth trying and it's a lot of fun. One of these days I'll be a pro and laugh at how nervous I was to try it.