A Preservation Party
If I haven’t convinced you yet that ANYONE can can, maybe this will do the trick. Or perhaps the giant spread in the Post’s Food section today about the glories of food preservation. Or perhaps you just like Pinterest-ready photos of canned jars? Well here are some from a little Labor Day canning party we had (yes, three people makes for a party).
If you’re still intimidated by the thought of canning, pickling, drying or anything that takes you beyond the freezer, well, don’t be. If I can do it, you can — especially if you drag friends into the fray. Get a few essentials (a good cookbook or blog, some large pots and a whole lot of produce), invite a few friends over and preserve to your heart’s content. But don’t forget the friends.
After canning a few times on my own, I can say it is far more fun (and probably less dangerous) in good company. You can ask things like, “Is this a good idea to pull this out without hot pads on? No?” and make important decisions like, “Maybe we should follow the recipe instead of trying to skimp on sugar. Good decision.”
And, if all goes well, you’ll end up with some beauties that can last into the winter (if you don’t eat them before then).
I had only a morning chunk of Labor Day to contribute to the project, and my comrades continued later into the day with tomato sauce. But, in just a few hours, we canned up some mind-blowing tomato jam and pickled dilly beans and cucumber spears. I brought some dilly beans (from my last batch) to a BBQ that afternoon — big hit.
And I LOVED canning with my new pot and tools. My friend Stacey had stumbled into a huge cache of mason jars from her grandmother and one of those canning kits with five different tools for grabbing hot jars. We tried just about all of them, perfecting our methods as we went along (no burns or major injuries, so that’s an improvement!). I got my pot, which makes boiling the jars a breeze, for $20 on Amazon.
Of the things I’ve made so far, this tomato jam was a real mind blower. After cooking down for a couple hours (and us still worried it wasn’t “jamming” enough), it was infused with complex flavors and a sweet-spiciness that just begs to be poured over a block of goat cheese and served at a party with crackers.
I have really enjoyed digging into my new Food in Jars cookbook, from whence this recipe came. I’d add that this is not one to try to short the sugar on. It’s key to getting the sauce into jam and to building in that balance of flavors. Since the recipe doesn’t call for peeled tomatoes (thank heaven!), it’s a good one to start first on a canning day. Just chop-and-measure it all into a pot and move on to other recipes while it cooks down.
Makes 4 Pint Jars
- 5 pounds tomatoes, cored and finely chopped (we ran chunks through a food processor)
- 3 1/2 cups granulated sugar (we used evaporated cane sugar)
- 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
- 2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
Chop and measure all the ingredients into a large, nonreactive pot. Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce the heat to low. Simmer the jam, stirring regularly, until it reduces to a sticky, jammy mess. This will take between 1.5 to 2 hours (don’t short the sugar or it will take even longer and you’ll be left with less jam!).
(While the jam is cooking down, make these awesome dilly beans or pickled cucumbers while you wait.) When the jam is nearly done, prepare a boiling water bath and 4 1-pint jars by warming or boiling them in your canning pot. Place the lids in simmering water in a sauce pan to get the seals slightly heated.
When the jam has cooked down sufficiently, remove the pot from the heat and ladle the jam into the prepared jars. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.
That’s all there is to it! So what are you canning, pickling or otherwise preserving this year? If you’re in the DC area (or if you’re not), check out this website by a great local expert on canning, Mrs. Wheelbarrow. Take a class or host a canning party. If all boils over and fails miserably, at least you’ll have fun in the process.