Our garden produces more than we know what to do with, and I always wanted to learn how to can and preserve the excess. I envisioned a pantry packed with homemade jams, jellies, pickles, tomato sauce, and salsa. But so far, all I’ve managed in two years was to cook and can a single batch of pepper jelly. It took me a while to muster the courage to do it, too, and the help of a friend with a bit of canning experience.
Canning always seemed like a tricky and mysterious business to me. Fears of invisible bugs and the food police were enough to dissuade me. I just wasn’t bold enough to try it without the guidance of an expert.
So yesterday I attended a day-long class at the Preserve. The “classroom” was nestled in a lush edible garden.
Our instructors were perfect opposites. One was an animated storyteller and comedian.
“When local and seasonal becomes something fancy, you know we went somewhere weird,” she did not hesitate to share her opinions. The other relied on recipe booklets and a flipchart.
She was the consummate home economist. Quite the pair, they had us giggling all day long. We learned the basics of jam making, pickling, and canning fruits and tomatoes. They demonstrated a batch of lemon verbena-infused strawberry-raspberry jam with homemade apple pectin and currant pectin, canned raw-packed apricots, canned plum tomatoes, and sauerkraut. They made it seem so easy.
I was just disappointed to learn that I can’t can my homemade salsas with a water bath canner. Either I have to follow a tested recipe in a book (yeah, right) or use a pressure canner. I wonder if they offer a class on pressure canning?
Today I bought four cases of canning jars. This weekend I think I’ll harvest our black currants and make the French uncooked jelly recipe. Turns out canning is pretty simple, I don’t know what I was so afraid of.