A couple years ago, if you had told me that I would be spending most of my summer evenings preserving the foods in the above photo, I would have laughed you out the door. Pretty much the only thing I knew about home-canning was that you could give yourself food poisoning, and as someone who was prone to ruining batches of cookies by distractedly not reading the ingredients list correctly, there was no way I was venturing down that road.
But then last summer, I took a course on peach preserving at The Depanneur and I discovered how easy (and surprisingly non-intimidating) canning could be. After the course, I canned my own peaches in simple syrup, and then my own tomato sauce, and was able to enjoy them all winter long.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, my job this summer has me cooking mostly fall- and winter-oriented meals for a project that launches around Thanksgiving. In order not to feel as though I’m missing out on summer’s produce, I’ve been stocking up at the farmers’ markets on the weekend and then canning my finds after dinner. So far, I’ve made the following (from left to right in the photo, with links provided if the recipe exists online):
- sour cherries in bourbon
- raspberry jam with ginger and maple syrup
- apricot lavender jam with honey
- apricot rosemary jam
- peach sriracha jam
- salted brown sugar peach jam
- peaches in simple syrup
- honey-sweetened peach vanilla jam
- vanilla yellow plum jam
- pickled jalapeno peppers
- dill pickled string beans
- garlic & dill pickled cucumbers
- blueberry maple jam
- whole strawberries in vanilla syrup
So . . . holy. That’s a lot of food. I’m only realizing now quite how much food that is. But the key to this was to preserve in very, very small batches, so that I only have two or three of each type of preserve. This means that I really didn’t need to bust out the enormous canning pot from the storage locker, as the small jars fit just fine in a normal pot. Moreover, it meant that instead of trying to haul entire flats and bushels of fruit (usually on my bike, no less), I could just buy smaller quantities and preserve those.
In any case, if you’re at all interested in canning, I’ve assembled a few resources for you that I’ve found valuable. It’s never too late to start! Summer’s still got plenty of peaches, plums, and berries for turning into jam, and many a vegetable in need of a pickling solution.
This is probably one of the best and most highly recommended sites for beginners. Their site’s home page has a link to a free, self-guided online course for beginners, so you can learn the safest canning practices. With guides to everything from How Canning Preserves Foods to Storing Home Canned Foods to Identifying and Handling Spoiled Canned Food, they’ve got the basics covered. They also have a terrific, recipe-focused blog called Preserving Food at Home for once you’ve gotten comfortable with the basics.
Food in Jars is an amazing blog by Marisa McClellan, all about canning, preserving, and the meals you can create around those preserves. I don’t think I can even give Marisa enough credit — her work is such an amazing resource, and she writes in such a warm, friendly way that it’s easy to be drawn to her recipes. I’d been a fan of her blog for a long time, but this past April, I picked up a copy of her latest book, Preserving by the Pint. It is not an exaggeration to say that I dog-eared almost every single page in her cookbook until my boyfriend suggested that I was sort of defeating the purpose of dog-earing itself. The recipes in Preserving by the Pint focus — as the title suggests — on small-batch canning projects, and are accessible to everybody, no matter what your level of experience is. If you haven’t already, please go check out her site!
I recently had the pleasure of meeting WellPreserved’s creators, Joel MacCharles and Dana Harrison, in person at one of their monthly HomeEc nights — and they were every bit as lovely in real life as they sound on their blog. WellPreserved is a one-stop-shop for everything you’ve ever wanted to know about pickling, canning, and preserving; it contains more than 1700 (!) articles on topics ranging from urban gardening to food security to preserving, just to name a few. I love the recipe roundups they do all season long with inspiring ways to preserve whatever produce is in abundance, like this roundup for plums. If you’re in Toronto in September, you shouldn’t miss their HomeEc Big Outdoor Kitchen Party taking place at Harbourfront on Sept. 14th.
I would be remiss if I left out Christine Manning as a great resource and instructor for all things preserved. She was the one who taught me that first class on peach preserves last summer, and she’s still teaching classes across the city — she even does lessons in your own home! Christine’s blog is full of cheerful recipes and useful related posts, like her quick tips for successful preserves. If you want to know more about her decision to quit her job in order to pursue full-time preserving, check out my old Q&A with her here!
And now, I’m reaching out to you, dear readers. Are there any blogs or sites I’ve left out? Any books or other resources I should investigate? Do you have any stories of your own about preserving, or any favourite recipes I should try? Let me know!