Canning Essentials: Books and Tools for Hobbyists and Enthusiasts Alike
It's been rumored we are passionate about cooking and gardening. So, it stands to reason that we are into canning too. The act of canning brings these two passions together and seals them up in a crystal clear jar. Yea, it's more than true… we are kinda canning nuts. Every fall we put up sauces, chutneys, salsas, jellies, jams, pickles, and more. It's how we eat through most of the winter.
Over the years we have had a lot of questions from friends, students, and guests to the blog about items they should purchase to get them started on the road to canning bliss. Rather than writing you each back individually we compiled a list of the top items you may not already have in your kitchen (we assume you'll have towels and measuring cups…). From our favorite books to fancy jars and pressure canners, following is a list of items that you may want to invest in to make your canning easier. Click on the photo or the link for each item to view the item on Amazon.com and purchase it.
Books and Recipes
As far as instruction books for the beginning canning enthusiast go, we always recommend The Blue Book Guide to Preserving. This is the one must have book for anyone canning. FIlled with instructions that are easy to follow and recipes that are straightforward this book is your gateway into a love affair with canning.
Then we move onto the big brother of preserving instruction manuals. The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving has 400 recipes for you to try. From jellies and jams, to chutneys, pie fillings, and ketchups and mustards (Notice the plural there) this is the book we reach for. Yea, we really do!
Again, its easy to find what you need and instructions are perfect. You can not fail if you just follow the steps laid out.
Here is a nifty gadget to have around for those of you experimenting with canning or are planning on just making a few cans of jelly for yourselves. This kit, the Ball® Home Canning Discovery Kit
, is one of the cooler items out now. The polypropylene basket, is large enough to hold three pint jars (included in the kit), and turns any stockpot into a waterbath canner. We tried this out a few years ago and LOVED it. If you are interested in trying out canning but are not ready to buy larger equipment this is the way to go
There are a few ways to go when it comes to waterbath canners. You can opt for buying the main utensils, (funnel, jar lifter, and headspace gauge) separately then purchase the canner. Or, you can just get it all in in one kit.
Personally, I believe if you are going to waterbath can, get everything at once… just my opinion though.
Canning jars can be found in most grocery stores. Depending on what you are canning, and how much you make, you may need multiple sizes (e.g. half pint, pint, and quart). When buying in sets like these you will get your lids and bands along with the jar. WIth respect and proper handling you'll be able to re-use the jar and bands for years to come and easily buy the lids each season.
One Note: Do not use cleaned out mayo jars. It's tempting, but don't.
And finally we come to the big mama of canning… the Pressure Canner. Do not confuse this with a Pressure Cooker. Whereas a Presser Canner can be used for cooking, a Pressure Cooker should never be used for canning. Pressure Canners are specially calibrated to provide the exact pressure needed for canning low acid foods and meats safely.
No, it will not blow up the kitchen like your grandmother's did that one time… we have a few of those stories from our childhoods too. Modern Pressure canners are equipped with numerous safety valves, are VERY easy to use, and will ensure your family has canned green beans, fresh corn, and butternut squash all winter long. Oolongs (that's a technical term for a whole lotta) of recipes for this device can be found in the The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving too.
These are just a handful of the magnificent items you can play with when you decide to take up canning. Again, the process of canning is easy to learn and fun to do. Give it a try! Leave us a message here telling us what you end up canning this year.
RIght now we're off to can some Spicy Asian Plum Sauce.
talk to you soon!
Jason & Shannon
OMG! Peach Salsa
It's the flavors of Summertime saved in jar for you to open in the deep dark days of Winter. Sweet and tangy salsa with a punch of fresh picked peaches just waiting to be dipped with chips, layered on pork or chicken or just eaten right out of the jar… OMG!
OMG Peach Salsa
(one taste and you'll get the name)
This recipe makes about eight, 8-ounce jars... we usually get a little more (snacks!!)Ingredients:
1/2 Cup White Vinegar
6 Cups Peaches, peeled, pitted, chopped, (blanching tips to follow)
1 1/4 Cups Red Onion, chopped
4 Jalapeno Peppers, finely chopped (if you want more flavor from the pepper than heat, be sure to remove all seeds and, especially, those white "ribs" running up the inside of the pepper)
1 Red Bell Pepper, seeded and chopped (make sure to remove the seeds and the white ribs from your bell peppers as these are what makes them bitter)
1/2 Cup Fresh Cilantro, loosely packed, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons Honey
1 Clove of Garlic finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp. Ground Cumin
1/2 tsp. Cayenne Pepper First, prep your water bath canner, jars, bands, and lids
. As always, we recommend the Ball Blue Book as our everlasting guide to all things canning. If this is your first time canning, pick up a copy.Next, get those skins off your peaches!
(Blanch and Shock Technique
Heat up a large pot of water to a rolling boil. We use a spider (wok tool) to gently place our peaches into the boiling water and prevent scalding splashes. Once you have the pot loaded with just enough fruit that they can still easily move around in the boiling water (about 5-6 peaches for our stock pot) take a moment set out a compost bowl (ours is one of those white, ceramic ones that looks like a garden pail... sits right on the counter top for easy access and still looks great) next to a tub of ice cold water (preferably a big bowl of ice and water sitting in your sink). Watch your boiling peaches carefully for signs of readiness; e.g. light cracking or pruning skins. This will happen in 2-3 minutes tops. Remember, you aren't trying to cook them, you just want to loosen the collagen bonds between the fruit and the skin (well that just sounds gross, doesn't it??).
Anyway... you'll only need to boil the fruit for a couple of minutes to loosen up the skins. Using your spider (you gotta get one of these if you're going to do much of this... it's GREAT!), scoop out the fruit one at a time from the boiling water and plop (gently) into the ice water. Wait for them to cool enough to handle. The rule of thumb is equal time boiling to time chilling. You may need to add more ice to the bowl half way through the process.
After your fruit hits the icy water, you'll notice they start to "crack." This is the skins letting go of the fruit because of the whole heating-cooling-expansion-contraction thingy... Jason is better at explaining the science of while all this stuff works... but, since I'm typing and he's just editing from the background, I'm not going to blah blah about it. Okay? Good... moving on...
Once they are cool enough to touch just start peeling them with your fingers. Usually, the skins will slide right off but you might need to coax them a little with a small paring knife. If that's the case, no biggie, just takes a little more time and your patience will be rewarded. As each piece of fruit is defrocked (nekkid fruit!!) we return it to the cold water to keep it from cooking further. De-seed and Chop That Fruit:
Cut around each peach going from top to bottom. Peaches have a nice seam to follow! If you are using “cling free" peaches the fruit will then pull easily in half if you gently twist your knife and the stone will then pop right out. If not, cut around in another circle again, (peach is now quartered lengthwise), and gently work the fruit from seed. This can get a little messy, but take your time and you'll get it. Your patience will be rewarded. Once seeded, chop into chunks…
Continue this process with all your peaches. You’re now ready to make salsa!
- In a large, stainless steel saucepan, combine the Vinegar, Cumin, and Cayenne Pepper. Bring to a boil.
- Add all remaining ingredients.
- Stir constantly but gently as you bring this to a boil over medium-high heat... if your mouth isn't watering at this point, there's something wrong with you! LOL
- As the ingredients come to a boil, all the sweetness, heat and warm spices mingle together in a conspiracy to seriously tempt you to go get a spoon... but don't! Wait for it…
- Once you reach a full boil, reduce the heat and simmer gently and patiently until the salsa thickens slightly. Stir occasionally to keep from sticking. This should only take about five minutes.
- Remove from the heat right away or you'll have peach paste.
- Ladle the hot salsa into your hot prepared jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.
- Remove all air bubbles with the help of a bamboo skewer. Adjust the headspace if you need to by adding more of the hot salsa.
- Wipe down the rims to ensure no errant stickiness makes its way between the lids and a solid seal. Remember: bacteria = bad!! Center the lid (grandma always called them flats) on the clean rim, then screw the band down to fingertip tight. No He-Man stuff here, just fingertip tight will do the job. Oh! Do be careful, the jars will be hot. Again, please refer to the Ball Blue Book for a more in depth explanation of the ins and outs of canning techniques if this is your first time.
- Finally, place the jars in your water bath canner making sure they are completely covered in water. Bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and remove the canner lid. Wait five more minutes then remove the jars to your protected counter top or pass through surface to cool. TAADAAA!!
If you are lucky, you'll have a little of this OMG Peach Salsa
left over that just won't quite fit in the jars. If you are so fortunate, either grab the chips and chow down or save it for dinner. This stuff tastes great on all kinds of grilled meats and veggies. The flavor is sweet and savory all at once so if you are a vegetarian or a carnivore, you'll love how this enhances the flavor of your favorite foods.
One of our favorite uses so far is to mix the salsa with a little fromage blanc and use it to spread on fresh bread, scones, crackers, or just eat with a spoon!! LOL
Again, if you are canning this salsa to store in your pantry for future use please follow these EXACT instructions and proportions or check with your State Department of Agriculture or State Extension Food Safety Office (they can be found online here: http://nchfp.uga.edu/links/links_home.html
) Failure to follow safety guidelines will mean you will not have happy results and the resulting bacterial growth in your jars is very, very harmful.
If you decide to eat now and refrigerate the rest OMG! Peach Salsa should be consumed within 2 weeks. (Like that's gonna be hard)
Be sure to let us know how you like our recipes and also tell us how you have been using them. Enjoy!
talk to you soon...
It's the most wonderful time of the year… no… not THAT time of the year. It's pepper harvest time! WOOHOO!! Granted, you'll find us getting just as excited over tomato harvest, corn harvest, Brussels sprouts… you get the picture.
Right now though, as we stroll through the markets, we're seeing the welcome sight of peppers in all shapes and sizes starting to come on. Shades of reds and greens, yellows and oranges… it's definitely time to start taking advantage of this variety and availability of fresh peppers.
One of our favorite uses for this peppery bounty is our pepper sauce. (Wait… what? Oh… that's another post… sorry 'bout that…)
One of our favorite uses for this peppery bounty is our pepper jelly. (That's the right one for this week? Okay… good…) Along with our peach salsa and garlic plum sauce, this is one of our most requested recipes so we thought we'd just put it out there for y'all. Make it hot or make it sweet… just make a batch right now and enjoy it all winter.
Today’s episode is one that is near and dear to our hearts: Tomato Canning. We always have a few dozen jars of home canned tomatoes in our pantry to use in everything from Chili to Lasagna. Tomatoes are a staple in our house so it was important that we learned the right way to put them up… but being the kind of guys that have a lot of other things to do we also needed the process to be fast and easy.
Without further adieu here is a step by step tutorial for canning your own tomato sauce. Although there are many canning options available, for ease and no fail results start with water bath canning. These instructions are only good for tomatoes… for other fruits and veggies please consult the Ball Blue Book of Canning.Supplies Checklist
Items on this list can be found in your local grocery or hardware store during spring and summer or online anytime. They can also be found in our Amazon Affiliate Store.
- Glass jars: Pint or quart size jars produced for canning purposes only. Don’t reuse mayo or jelly jars: they’re usually made of thinner glass and can easily break.
- Rings and lids (flats): Either regular or wide mouth lids will work fine for tomato sauce/puree like we are making today. Make sure you purchase the right size to fit your jars.
- Large Stock/Stew Pot or Big Ol’ Slow Cooker (We use 2 slow cookers… but we’re a little crazy)
- Water bath canner or large stock pot: A water bath canner is larger than most stock pots and has a rack on which the jars sit. Check your grandmother’s attic… I bet she has an extra one. If you don’t want to invest in a canner, any lidded stock pot will work as long as it can be filled with enough water to cover the jars, plus an additional 2 inches of water.
- Funnel, non-metallic spatula, and jar lifter: All can be purchased in a single kit. Don’t attempt canning without these, in particular the jar lifter. It costs about $20 for a kit with everything in it. You can purchase a complete set online at amazon.com
- Immersion Blender aka Stick Blender
- Fresh, fully ripe tomatoes: You’ll need roughly 20 pounds of tomatoes for a canner load of 6 quarts, or 13 pounds for a canner load of 8 pints.
- Clean kitchen towels
- Bottled lemon juice