Experiments with Canning

This year, when it came time to pick out a Christmas gift for Cage Free Dad, there was really no laboring over a decision.  For the last two years, he has made his wishes very clear.  The only problem was, we never had the room until we moved into this house, considering we were living with my grandmother. So, for Christmas this year, he finally got his wish and received a full canning set. The only thing missing is a pressure canner, but we’ll take that plunge in a year or so.

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Canning is something we’ve both wanted to experiment with for years, and other than helping a few friends and following their recipes and instructions, we haven’t had a chance to really explore the process.  So, this  weekend (after we all recovered from the cold of death), we spend several hours together in the kitchen preserving the 3 gallons of blackberries that had been hogging all of our freezer space for nearly a year.

We followed the basic strawberry jam recipe in the Ball canning book, and just subbed blackberries for strawberries (although I can’t wait to get a bunch of strawberries and do this over because that is my all-time favorite!)  I was a bit disappointed in the fact that more sugar goes into the pot than berries themselves, but considering it was our first time “jamming,” I didn’t really want to mess with the tried and true recipes too much.  At least not yet.

I thought in light of the fact that I’m writing a green, natural living blog, photos of the process would be a nice addition for my readers!  Pistache helped quite a bit. She is going to be such a gourmet when she grows up.

Making our first batch of jam

Making our first batch of jam

Yes, Pistache does have a rather large “cast” on her hand right now.  It’s due to an accident involving her cousins and a door, but we’re hoping it gets removed in a couple of days at her follow up! Oh…and you know those cooking blogs that show tons of pictures of their process while showing off their immaculate kitchens? Yeah…you obviously won’t find that here.  My kitchen is tiny and cluttered when I’m not using it, never mind when we’re making four batches of jam!

If you’ve never made jam for canning, you should consider it! It is the perfect way to practice this vital preparedness skill, and it comes out so good. Plus, it really only takes an hour from start to finish, including clean up.  All you need is 5 cups of mashed berries, sugar, a few mixing bowls, 2 (large) pots, and some canning jars and lids.  We are using a real canning set, since it came with so many tools that made the job a lot easier, such as a jar lifter, a magnetic lid catcher, a funnel, and a rack that holds the jars in the canner.  I got the set on Amazon a few weeks ago for about $80, and after one good use, I can say I’m pretty happy with the purchase.  We used all of the tools but one, and I can see it coming in handy on some other preserving projects.  If you don’t want to splurge on the whole set, a few large stock pots will probably get you through your first few attempts.

Jam ready for canning

Jam ready for canning

Here is our jam, after it cooked for maybe 15 minutes.  It’s all ready for canning, now! Cage Free Dad took over when it came to funneling the boiling hot jam into individual jars, and I cleaned the jars off and added the lids before they went back into the canner to process.  This part took about 15 minutes after the water started boiling again, so, like I said, if you’re only doing one batch of jam, your kitchen can be clean again in an hour!

Obviously, this cage free family does not just do 1 batch, though, and found ourselves with enough jam to give away in the end!

32 jars of homemade blackberry jam.  A beautiful sight!

32 jars of homemade blackberry jam. A beautiful sight!

We had a lot of fun canning together, and made a lot of gardening decisions based on our new hobby.  I can’t wait until the end of summer when we get to start canning tomatoes, salsa, strawberry jam, and pickles! Of course, now it just needs to warm up some, so that we can get some plants started!

 

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