This post comes to us courtesy of cookbook author and food writer Karen Solomon.
Canning is awesome. And not just, “Indeed, Beatrice, last summer’s peaches really have retained their color nicely” awesome, but, “Wow! That Chili Garlic Bourbon-Soaked Bacon Cherry Jam nearly blew my palate off the plate!” awesome.
Back in the day, people canned because they had to. If you didn’t preserve your bumper crop of –well, just about anything — that meant you didn’t have anymore.
But today, canning is a totally fun kitchen craft project that can be done anytime, without the immediate pressure of getting a meal on the table. Modern canning, particularly for urban dwellers with tiny gardens and beaucoup grocery store access year-round, isn’t necessary for staving off starvation. People can instead of knitting scarves or building bird houses and spice racks; it’s a hobby that can be shown off and shared with friends.
I teach a lot of canning classes, and it never fails that at least one student says, “That’s it? That’s all there is to it?” I feel like less of a teacher and more of an evangelist.
If you can boil water, you can can. Canning today is very, very safe — the likelihood of suffering from botulism is far less likely than having a major collision with your car — and it no longer involves guesswork and gobs of sticky wax. In short:
- Stick to tried and tested recipes.
- Start out with hot water bath canning. What does that mean? It means filling jars with food, putting on the lid and then boiling them for about 10 minutes.
- Can only high-acid (think vinegar pickles) and high-sugar (think jam) foods.
- Buy new canning jars online, at a hardware store or at a kitchen supply shop; using your grandma’s is an advanced maneuver. Modern jars with new lids are self-sealing and there are instructions on the box.
For more information, I have a canning primer in my book, Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It. I also recommend the University of Georgia’s National Center for Home Food Preservation.
About the author: Karen Solomon is the author of Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It and Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It (Ten Speed Press). She has been a well-published food writer for over a decade. Her edible musings on the restaurant scene, sustainable food programs, culinary trends, food history, and recipe development have appeared in Vegetarian Times, Fine Cooking, Prevention, Yoga Journal, Organic Style, the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Magazine, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Zagat Survey: San Francisco Bay Area Restaurants, and elsewhere.