Before this year, I had never canned anything. The process seemed complex, and like a lot of work. That, and we didn’t have any food to put in a can, until our hard work in the garden started to pay off. Once it was harvest time though, the kitchen was quickly flooded with much more fresh produce than we can eat, and we had to do something quick. We started preserving our cucumbers by making pickles, which was amazingly easy and tasted better than any I’ve bought in a store. The first batch we stuck straight in the fridge, and all 6 jars were gone within a week! This successful start gave us the confidence and motivation to keep at it, and we were soon pickling 3 varieties of our peppers and sealing the jars. This has also come in handy with our tomatoes, which I like to ripen on the vine, making for better taste but shorter shelf life. That was just last week, and we’ve already used a jar of canned tomatoes for an awesome homemade pizza sauce. If proper procedures are followed, foods can be preserved for long-term storage easily, and now we’re looking forward to being able to enjoy our homegrown food all year long.
Tips From a Newbie:
- Get a book. Buy or borrow, but get your hands on a book that you can reference later. We got the Complete Canning Guide from Better Homes & Gardens. To be honest, this one was an impulse purchase and we didn’t shop around to find the ‘right’ canning guide. The book has big bright photos, and large easy-to-read type. It’s definitely a beginners book and touches on a broad variety of topics without going too in-depth, but hey, we’re beginners.
- Use the book. It only took reading a few paragraphs to realize that canning isn’t hard. Find a recipe you want to try and follow it. Different books will recommend different things… that’s fine. The key point here is to not put the book on the shelf. Read it, pick the good parts, and use that knowledge!
- Can things you like. It’s easy to get carried away planting your garden and end up with too much of one thing, but just because it’s there doesn’t mean it needs to be canned. Spend the effort to preserve foods you really want and it will be much more rewarding.
- Try different recipes. There are unlimited possibilities, so try different things. Sometimes you’ll find a recipe written by an author with very different tastes than yours. I like my food spicy, and when canning our banana peppers, it took a few batches before I found a brine that didn’t make them too sweet. If you’re just starting out, I think the best way to learn is by doing. So, once you know the basics, experiment and find out what works best for you.
Those things sounds like common sense to me now, but when figuring out where to start, I tried a few things that either didn’t help me or made things more confusing. Food safety is extremely important, so researching and getting the right information is the first thing you want to do. Once you’ve got the basics, canning your own produce at home is a simple way to enjoy your food year round and do it on the cheap. If you’ve never canned or pickled anything before, I really recommend trying it.