Preserving season runs all year long, but summer and autumn are when canning enthusiasts really ramp up production. Fresh produce is readily available, lower in price, and best of all; at its prime.
Chances are if you’ve been to any farmer’s markets lately, you have also gone home with a case of perfectly ripened fruit or vegetables. Maybe your internal dialogue went something like this: “What the hell was I thinking… what am I going to do with all of these (insert name of fruit or vegetable here?!)”
If you’re a seasoned canner, you’ll already have a recipe in mind and be prepared ahead of time. But if you’ve never preserved before, the process can be daunting. It’s valid to be concerned about flavour, food waste and food safety. After all, the guidelines for canning have changed within the last few generations.
Along with every canning recipe on my blog, I always include a safety disclaimer: Properly preserved fruits and vegetables should be sealed (and remain so for a year or slightly more). If the contents appear to have drastically changed colour, contain mold, become cloudy, or have an offensive odour; bin them. My motto (and that of many preservers) is: When in doubt, throw it out.
Despite these dire warnings, dear friends; please do not panic. You’ve got this.
Home preserving is a wonderful and rewarding hobby. Purchasing canning equipment is a small investment when compared to the price tag of other hobbies, and having the proper gear makes the process easier and produces more consistent results.
Begin by investing in a good-sized hot water bath canner with a rack or silicone mesh liner. Then purchase jars and lids. You can buy all three of these at any grocery or hardware store. The 250 ml jar is a great size for jams, jellies, and sauces. For larger fruits and vegetables, choose the 500 ml jar, preferably the ‘wide mouth’ style. This makes it much easier to pack ingredients as tightly as possible.
Other tools that aren’t necessary but make the process easier are jar tongs (for grabbing hot jars), a magnetic wand (for retrieving hot lids and metal rings), and a jar funnel (for filling jars cleanly.)
Let’s start simple with garlic and dill pickled carrots. Begin by breaking down the process into three parts: food prep, canning prep, and processing. Dividing up the tasks makes the entire process less daunting and can be used for most canning recipes.