Planning and Canning (Part 2)
If you missed the first part of this post, you can find it right here!
Once I decided to make strawberry jam, it was time for some research. Here are some of the sites I looked at: All About Home Canning, Freezing, and Making Jams and Jellies, Canning 101, and Ball’s canning site. There is a lot to learn about canning, so if you want to give it a try I highly recommend reading up on it. I should also probably tell you not to just use this post as a strict guideline for canning– I have very little experience and some of what I’ll tell you is probably wrong! The main point of this post is that if I’m able to make jam, put it in jars, and the jars actually seal, then you can do it too. Also, the work that goes into canning is front-loaded: once you’re all set it’s a piece of cake!
First, I went out and bought some special equipment. This was actually trickier than I thought because where exactly can you buy canning supplies other than on the internet? Ace Hardware, it turns out! The guy working was very helpful since I clearly had no idea what I was doing. Here’s what I learned: you can buy “canning kits” that include all sorts of special equipment, but all you really need is a wide-mouth funnel to put whatever you’re canning into the jars, and a special tongs to pick up the boiling hot glass jars. Other handy equipment is a tall stock pot and metal tongs. And, obviously glass jars with new lids and the metal rings that seal the lids on. There are other ways to put lids on glass jars, but I don’t really understand them and the method with the flat top and the ring is the easiest. Also, you never want to reuse a glass jar and the lid (like a salsa jar from the grocery store) that came with it, since it won’t be able to seal properly!
After gathering the equipment, you need to prep all the different steps. It sounds like it might be a lot of work, but it’s not. And once everything is ready, it all comes together in a cinch. All you have to do is make the jam, pour it into the jars, and seal them! I found it’s easier if you just make several batches of jam in a row since a lot of the preparation steps are the exact same. First, make sure your jars, lids and bands are nice and clean (which can be done in a dishwasher), and then you want to keep the jars warm so they don’t break when you put the boiling jam inside. You also want to keep the lids and bands in boiling water so they don’t become contaminated. Also get hot water boiling in your stock pot (it should be about 3/5 of the way full).
So you have your clean glass jars on a rimmed cookie sheet in the oven, your lids and bands in simmering water, and a stock pot with boiling water, which means you can start making the jam (or whatever else you’re canning)! Not all produce is can-able and I found this site to be extremely helpful in answering most of my questions.
Strawberry Citrus Jam
(adapted from PickYourOwn)
I decided to use pectin (a natural thickening product made from apples) in my jam. If you don’t use pectin you need a lot more sugar and the berries need to cook longer. I’d never heard of pectin before deciding to make strawberry jam, and some people frown on it because it makes the jam less natural or something…. I don’t really get it; it made things easier and it’s fruit-based, so how is that bad?
[I started to type up the recipe, but decided not to because I don’t think you should follow my instructions since there are a lot of people who have written instructions for canning that know a lot more than I do. Go use their recipes, such as the one I linked to above! I added in the zest from one orange, along with its juice and the zest from one lemon and its juice just after I’d put the strawberries in the pot for a more pronounced citrus flavor.]
[Is this a cop-out? Sorry! I’m doing it for your own personal safety– I’d feel terrible if I poisoned someone.]