I can CAN!

If you are anything like I was this time last year, your understanding of the word "canning" had much more to do with being fired (to be canned) or doing the ‘can can' dance than it did to referencing the process of pickling and preserving vegetables through the art of "canning"! Yes, I now like to refer to this process as an ‘art' because it's probably the closest to artistic that I will ever get. As you may know, my husband and I started a large vegetable garden last year and the produce it provided way exceeded our expectations! Unless we plan to open up a vegetable shop on the front lawn, I decided I had better learn how to can quick-smart!  

I had notions that canning was extremely tricky and time-consuming and after reading up about it extensively (yes, there are books dedicated to ‘canning’) and giving it a first shot, I realized that my notions were correct….ha ha, ah no, I am kidding! When it comes down to it, I find that the most time-consuming part of the whole process is filling the giant canning pot with water! So if you can fill a pot with water, you can CAN!! 

I am not going to turn this blog into a lesson on canning because as I mentioned there are a TON of books and articles readily available on the topic, but I thought I would provide my "top 10 tips", some of which are well-known canning to-do's and others will help you avoid some of the frustrations I had:

  1. Canning pots (with accessories) are easily available for purchase on Amazon; get one that has an insert that helps lower in and out the jars, this is SO helpful. Also, store your pot in the basement or out of the kitchen, otherwise you will basically need an entire cupboard as these pots are HUGE!

  2. I think ball mason jars are the best and do not; I repeat DO NOT buy anything other than good ball replacement lids as other cheaper options DO NOT WORK!! (Note: you cannot re-use lids when canning, you CAN re-use the jars!)

  3. If you are looking to can a recipe, make sure you find one that is suitable for canning. Canning recipes have a way higher vinegar component than refrigerator recipes so watch out!

  4. I've learned that canning is not like baking, it doesn't need to be exact when it comes to the spices and flavors. I am now all kinds of creative with what I throw into pickles - garlic, different types of hot peppers, turmeric, ginger, celery seed, onion…just go for it!

  5. Always sterilize. I typically always start the process by boiling water so I can be sterilizing jars and lids at the same time as preparing the brine.

  6. Sterilize jars and lids in a separate bowl; I learned this the hard way as I spent 30 minutes trying to fish out lids from the giant never-ending vat of the canning pot!

  7. Always follow the key steps to ensure a good seal. Wipe the tops of the jars after filling, insert a stick of some sort into the jar to release any air, and place lid correctly - only screw-on top to finger loosening tightness and boil (process) for the recommended time.

  8. Label and date your jars. This may seem obvious, but I have forgotten to do this, and it makes more sense to open the oldest jars first!

  9. My favorite things to ‘can’ are pickles, candied jalapeños, and tomato chutney! With these three condiments, you are pretty much SET for sandwiches, salads, cheese boards, and all hosting occasions for the year!

  10. ENJOY the process. Some snacks, a beer, and some good music playing always makes this a fun time for me!

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I will say that it gives me an immense amount of pleasure to have my pantry filled with homemade jars of goodness from my garden. I love being able to create cheese boards accompanied by relishes and sides that are homemade. If I may say so myself, the candied jalapeños I make are just insanely good! All credit here to Foodie with Family as this is the primary recipe I use for these amazing morsels of heaven:  https://www.foodiewithfamily.com/candied-jalapenos/

I have tried about ten different recipes for chutney, and this is my favorite: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/janes-green-tomato-chutney?amp I do make a few of my own variations to this one: 

  • I don't use mixed spice (wasn't too sure what it was). I instead use: 1 tsp of celery seeds, 1 tsp dried thyme.

  • I DO use the chili flakes.

  • I use less sugar, maybe 200-300grams (instead I boost up the dates a bit more!)

For pickles this year, I have essentially taken bits and pieces from several different recipes until I combined and edited what I found I like the best which is as follows:

  • 6-8 large cucumbers

  • 3 large white onions

  • 1/3 cup kosher salt

  • 5 garlic cloves

  •  Sliced fresh jalapeños and red cayenne peppers (about 5-6)

  • 1 tbsp celery seed

  • 2 tbsp mustard seeds

  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes

  • 1.5 tsp turmeric

  • Fresh dill (a nice bunch)

  • 3 cups sugar

  • 3 cups apple cider vinegar

Directions:

Cover cucumbers and sliced onions with the salt and let stand for one hour. Bring the vinegar and all other ingredients to a boil. Rinse cucumbers and add to the brine, simmer for 3 minutes. Put pickles into jars, cover with brine to within ½ inch of the top of jar. Seal and process in canning pot.

I think it’s the turmeric, sliced peppers and fresh dill that make a real difference to the above! Yum! Literally I could eat these right out of the jar….and I do!

It's fun to grow a garden, it's fun to grill up veggies, make salads, salsa's or dips all summer long, but I'm telling you there is something so much more satisfying about cracking open a jar of homemade chutney in the dead of winter to have with some cheese, crackers and a deep red wine! I never thought I would get into canning, especially these days when you can buy anything you desire at Trader Joe's but knowing I made the pickles from scratch myself just makes me completely happy! So, my advice is to give canning a try… tell yourself, I know I can, I know I can CAN 😊!