Thursday, April 22, 2010

Canning Season Begins

I've been procrastinating. It's been strawberry season for a couple weeks now, and until today, I hadn't canned the jam our family would happily subsist on.

See, the thing is, I know once I start canning, I won't be stopping until sometime in October. It's not that I don't like it - actually, I love it - but it can be a LOT of work.

By the end of harvest season, I'll have canned strawberry jam, peach or apricot jam, tomatoes, tomato sauce, salsa, bread and butter pickles, pickled asparagus, tomato soup, peach salsa, peach butter, apple butter, applesauce, apple pie filling, apples, and peaches. And anything else that sounds appealing as the summer progresses and we see what the garden brings. And strawberry jam is always the first, the start of that enormous amount of satisfying but exhausting work.

But when I found a great sale on organic strawberries this week, I knew I had to give in. Besides, my husband actually pouted when he discovered we ran out of strawberry jam a few weeks ago.

The good news is that now that I've got a few years' experience under my belt, canning isn't quite the enormous project it used to be. In fact, we had a triple batch of jam finished by 10:00 this morning.

I say we, because this is now a family project. Even the Littlest One can help mash berries.

I just realized she looks homeless. We didn't bother dressing
her or fixing her hair before starting.

And the seven year old is actually helpful now - not just smooshing, but also stirring as the jam cooks on the stove. (With supervision, but she's gotten lots of stirring practice from our bi-monthly cheese making.)

If you're not sure about canning, jam is a great place to start. Berries, pectin, and sugar, a bit of patience and a big pot of boiling water are all you need. It's pretty straightforward. I use organic raw cane sugar and organic berries, just to make it slightly healthier. (Can jam actually be healthy? Probably not...)

A triple batch should be enough to keep our family's sweet tooth satisfied until this time next year - it works out to about 12 pints. Of course, a few of those will be gifted to good friends and family.


Deb said...

Your strawberry jam was one of the highlights of my summer, last year... Ahhhhhh so sweet & good! I really ought to get back into canning. You are inspiring me.... I used to can all the time. When my girls were little...

Crazy Homeschool Mama said...

Oh yeah! I just bout strawberries at Costco yesterday....probably not organic :( Dave loves strawberry. Will have to get the small jars and try it

Just Me said...


I keep thinking I should start canning again. So I can have delicious local produce all year long. But I have never done it without my mom's help. So I would be lost getting started.

Dani said...

I don't even use pectin/gelatin in my jam! Just berries, some water and some sugar. :)

Julie said...

Yeah Dani, I did that once a couple of years ago. It worked fine except that it took literally hours of simmering and stirring. Using the pectin means it takes 20 minutes to make a batch from start to finish (not including canning time), so for me, it's worth it to use the pectin. It would take me days to get enough jam canned otherwise!

Julie said...

Apryl - c'mon over sometime. Seriously, I'll do it with you once, and you'll realize how easy it really is. :o)

Just Me said...

That would be fun. For us, canning time was a big deal. My mom, my brother, and I would all work together, prepping the fruit and veggies, mixing whatever needed mixing, prepping the jars, getting them into and out of the water. The 3 of us would spend a cay or 2 doing it and end up with tons of stuff canned. It was so much fun. Even my brother loved it. But it was a lot of work. Honestly, those days of canning with my mom and brother are some of my happiest memories from when I was a kid.

Wendy said...

You totally crack me up. I'm glad I decided to catch up on your blogs before bed - and even before unpacking from my little 4 day trip.

I laughed out loud at the caption under the photo of the girls.

Your jam looks delish. Makes me consider making some toast just about now. I think I'm going to give canning another go this year...wish me luck.

Julie said...

Oh, I do hope you give it another go, Wendy! Maybe try something a little bit simpler than your tomato bruschetta - that sounded like a lot of work. Jam's a great place to start, or maybe just plain ol' canned tomatoes come mid-summer when you're drowning in them. If you can find someone with a bit of experience to do it with you the first time, that'd probably help. Good luck!

Jessica said...

Oh my gosh, your photo comment about Littlest looking homeless just cracked me up; literally made me laugh out loud! Somehow V always looks raggedy if her hair is down, too, even if it is clean and brushed. It's okay, Momma, I know you don't neglect them!
ps your canning posts are helping me feel braver! I wish I knew where that organic berry sale was--berries are one of the few that I MUST have organic.