Canning guru Cathy Barrow captures the flavors of the season, one batch at a time.
Every summer a new batch of canners emerges, enthusiastic but nervous. Will they make people sick with their canned foods? Quite simply, no.
Waterbath canning—submerging jars in boiling water to seal them—is straightforward. Recipes geared to waterbath canning always include foods that fall on the acidic side of the pH range or those acidified further with vinegar, which makes these recipes inherently safe. If the jar doesn’t seal, refrigerate and eat the contents within a month. If mold appears, throw it away. There is no evidence of botulism growing in highly acidified foods. So, put worry aside and join legions of home canners admiring their efforts: shelves of gleaming jars filled with the best foods summer has to offer.
Follow recipes to the letter. Changing sugar or salt, altering the size of the jar, or changing processing times alters the science of preserving. These recipes are scaled to fit today’s smaller households. For safety’s sake, do not halve or double them.
Too often, home cooks new to preserving take on too much, too soon. Encouraged by that early-season jam that’s so delicious and easy, they make three batches and by the time peaches arrive, fatigue has set in.
The following recipes—a jam, pickle, pie filling, and the ever-useful crushed tomatoes—are the backbone of my pantry. Make a commitment to just four weekend days before September and the tastes of summer will be tucked away before the leaves start changing.
Put up only what you like to eat and what you will use up in a year. And if time allows, devote another day to tomatoes. You can never have enough jars of tomatoes.
Sliced freestone peaches look lovely inside a pie. Fill a pie with two pints or use the filling for a peach crisp or top with buttermilk biscuits and bake up a cobbler. Get the recipe.
This is the beginner’s canned tomato recipe, requiring no special equipment. It’s the most useful and the most versatile type of tomato to have on the shelf. Substitute one quart of home-canned tomatoes for a big can of grocery store tomatoes in any recipe. Recipe.
These crispy, briny pickles are full of jalapeño heat. Okra is a welcome addition to a pickle plate, a classic garnish for a bloody mary, and a perfect foil to charcuterie. Get the recipe.
Without seeds, the yield is lower, the texture smooth and satiny. Putting half the mixture through a food mill results in preserves full of flavor with just enough seeds to remember what it is you’re enjoying. If your preference runs to seedless jam, the food mill is your friend. Get the recipe.
A CANNING PRIMER
It’s likely that SOME ITEMS IN YOUR KITCHEN CAN BE REPURPOSED FOR WATERBATH CANNING. Use the deepest pot in your arsenal for a canning kettle, perhaps one used for pasta. A heavy, non-reactive five- or six-quart pot (enameled cast iron is my favorite) works as a preserving pot. A candy thermometer will ensure success with jam-making. Jars and rings may be reused but the flat lids must be replaced every time.
FIT A CANNING KETTLE WITH A RACK to keep jars from resting directly on the bottom of the pot. Fill it with enough water so upright jars will be submerged by two inches.
PREPARE FOOD TO BE PRESERVED ACCORDING TO THE RECIPE. Wash jars with hot soapy water and place on a clean towel. Ladle the hot preserves into the warm jars to the recommended headspace—the amount of space between the food and the top of the jar—noted in every recipe.
RUN A CHOPSTICK OR PLASTIC KNIFE (METAL COULD CHIP THE HOT GLASS) AROUND THE INSIDE OF EACH JAR to release air bubbles. Clean the rim of each jar carefully with a clean, damp towel. Place lids on jars, then add rings and attach “finger tight,” meaning just tight enough to keep the flat lids secure during processing.
LOWER THE JARS, UPRIGHT, INTO THE BOILING WATER. Add more hot water as necessary to cover. Return to a boil and start timer. Cover and process for entire time indicated in the recipe.
TURN OFF THE HEAT AND LET THE JARS REST IN THE POT to reduce siphoning (when the contents of the jar bubble up between the flat lid and the ring, making a proper seal unlikely). Remove the jars with jar lifters—coated to be non-slip and fashioned to fit securely around the lid of the jar—and place upright on a folded towel.
When the jars have cooled, after about 12 hours later, REMOVE RINGS AND CHECK THE SEAL ON EACH BY LIFTING THE JAR BY THE LID. If the seal on a jar fails, refrigerate and use the contents within one month. Wash the jars, label their contents and date, and store in a cool, dark, dry spot for up to one year.