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Twitter Canning Chat: Tuesday, August 14th

Our next Twitter Canning Chat will be tomorrow:

Tuesday, August 14th
6-7pm PT/9-10pm ET
Our twitter handle: @canvolution
Hashtag: #canningchat

Please join us!


Strawberries + Vinegar = Shrub, A Beverage Revelation

Pickled strawberries.

As I type this post, I’m sipping on a shrub. (Don’t worry; no backyard foliage is involved.) A shrub is a colonial-era sweet and sour syrup made from fruit, sugar, and vinegar believed to have been brought to the U.S by British settlers.

19th century writer Oliver Wendell Holmes references the shrub in his 1861 novel Elsie Venner: A Romance of Destiny:

“…but I do feel thirsty’ said the poor lady, ‘and I do think a glass of srub would do my my throat good: it’s dreadful dry. Mr.Peckham, would you be so polite as to pass me a glass of srub?”

The poor lady in question had the right idea; the shrub is a genuine thirst quencher and whets that whistle like nothing else. I had my first taste at a recent CAA meeting when fellow canner Kimberly McKittrick shared a jar of pickled strawberries that she had put up the previous summer. One sip and we were all hooked: Slightly sweet but really more spice-forward and a tad tangy, the syrup and its pickled fruit are a revelation.

Carbonated strawberry shrub.

We’ve seen historical references to the shrub as a mixer for alcohol, lemonade and water of the tonic-ed, carbonated, and still varieties. No doubt it is a pre-cursor to soda pop, which unfortunately has taken over the world and made the shrub obsolete. In fact, the shrub is part of Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste, a list of food and drink items that have faded into obscurity in the light of industrial agriculture.

The recipe below comes from Wright Eats, written by Seattle-based food bloggers Dawn and Eric Wright. What follows are details for how to make your own shrub.
P.S. I am considering trying this with raspberries and blackberries, what with brambles on the horizon here in the Pacific Northwest.

Spiced Pickled Strawberries

Adapted from The Complete Book of Pickling, by Jennifer MacKenzie
6 pints strawberries, hulled (preferably on the smaller side and just a touch under-ripe)
3 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt or 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
2 cups cider vinegar

Puncture strawberries with fork tines and cut any large ones in half.

Combine remaining ingredients together in a large saucepan.  Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar and salt are dissolved.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly.  Pour over prepared berries.

Cover the berries and let stand at a cool room temperature for at least six hours or overnight.
Prepare water bath canner, jars and lids.

Re-heat berries, gently stirring occasionally until strawberries are heated through but still hold their shape.

Gently spoon strawberries and hot pickling liquid into hot jars, leaving ½ inch head space.  Remove air bubbles and adjust head space as necessary.  Wipe rim and place hot lid on jar, screwing band down until fingertip-tight.

Place jars in canner and return to a boil.  Process for 10 minutes.

Turn off heat, remove canner lid and let jars stand in hot water for an additional 5 minutes.

Transfer jars to a towel-lined surface or a cooling rack and let stand undisturbed until completely cool, about 24 hours.  Check lids and refrigerate any jars that are not sealed.

Makes approximately 6 pints.

Use Up What You Put Up: Strawberry Shrub
2-3 tablespoons pickled strawberry syrup (and whole fruit if you like)
12 ounces sparkling water or club soda

Stir together in a tall glass, with or without ice, and enjoy. Add more syrup to taste.


P.S. I’m fairly certain that a vodka and soda would love to meet pickled strawberries…

One last thing: In the event that my shrub supply runs short, I am heartened to know of Tait Farm Foods, a family farm in Centre Hall, Pa., also the home to CAA friend Erin Hare.  I have had the pleasure of trying their raspberry shrub and it is an excellent stand-in for the homespun stuff.


My Experience With National Can-It-Forward Day 2011

Editor’s Note: As we gear up for the Can-A-Rama weekend next week, we look back at last year’s event as seen through the eyes of one of our backstage helpers!

A sunny Saturday at Seattle’s Pike Place Market is bound to be mayhem with crowds of foodies. Last August 13 in the midst of fruit vendors, fish throwers, and coffee roasters, the Canning Across America team set up shop under a pop up tent on the cobblestone streets eager to show off their knowledge, creativity, and playful attitudes for the National Can-It-Forward Day event. With various cooks from the gluten-free favorite Jeanne Sauvage to the rabble rousing Shibaguyz, the day was packed with innovative demonstrations and delectable samples. Each demo alternated between the creation of a canned product and example of how to use it in other dishes, showing passers-by that canning isn’t just about jelly.

I was located in the prep station, conveniently partitioned off to the side of the kitchen set-up. Surrounded by boxes of jars, produce, and gadgets, we back-stagers were in charge of getting every ingredient and tool ready for the show. Sound hard? The quick turnaround of dicing veggies and scrubbing pots in our makeshift wash-basins was not a stressful race as one might expect with so many culinary demos. It was full of laughter, interaction from playful bystanders, and so many delicious samples and snacks. The Ball Canning crew really knew what they were doing and kept churning out finished products as fast as we had the ingredients prepared. Between the crowd, the lively team, and the beautiful weather, the day was both jovial and informative. Thankfully technical difficulties were minimal, no fingers or eyebrows were lost, and through the curtain separating stage from sideline, I gained more knowledge about canning techniques than I ever thought possible.

The morning began with Jeanne, who whipped up a beautiful mixed berry jam that was served to the audience on fresh baguettes from Le Panier. After the demo, retro pastry chef Kelsey Angell of the Pink Door Restaurant swooped in like Lucille Ball meets a Hell’s Angel to show how to use that jam to make a Mixed Berry Torta with a flaky golden lattice that left us gluten free’ers salivating. Next up was a pickling tutorial by Allrecipes’s Judith Dern. The cooked cukes were turned into dill pickle and cream cheese sandwiches by Diane LaVonne of Diane’s Market Kitchen generating much excitement from the crowd for the how-to of such a simple treat. Who knew that with the help of the Ball Home-Canning kit, pickling was literally as easy as one, two, three? The next project stayed on the savory course with canned tomatoes, (courtesy of preserving blogger Brook Hurst Stephens) which were transformed into an aromatic seafood soup by French chef Phillipe Thomelin of Olivar Restaurant. With the help of a few additions including saffron, fresh scallops, and olive oil, Chef Thomelin had heads turning and necks craning. “I thought this was a canning demo?” one man said out in the peanut gallery. It is! Look what you can whip up with a dash of fish! Last but not least were the Shibaguyz Shannon and Jason Mullet-Bowlsby, who kept energy high for the finale of pepper jelly, a spicy addition to the bunch. Several stragglers stopped by the prep station asking to buy a jar of the hot sweet treat. Although no products were up for auction, they weren’t left empty handed but directed to the Canning Across America recipe section to make their own!

With rising trends in locavorism, home-growing, and community gardens, it’s no wonder that canning has stepped up as a serious new fixture in the food world. The concept has changed from a technique to survive winter into a wonderful way to enjoy seasonal flavors year round—while also getting really creative. Sorry jam, your glory days are over. Pickled vegetables, chutneys, jellies, syrups, and pie fillings have bumped up from their status as artisanal treats purchased in gourmet shops to the latest DIY projects. Pickled lemon asparagus, ginger fig jelly, or spicy peach tomatillo salsa anyone?

Not only is canning fun, but it’s affordable. As a college student, I’m on a tight budget but would rather cook than eat cheap, processed foods. Making my own is a bit more laborious, but a labor of love that I find relaxing, educational, and comforting. I’ve loved canning ever since I starting playing with the surplus from my aunts fig tree. It has only been a few years but has become a seasonal ritual that allows me to indulge in nostalgia for other seasons and regional flavors. It’s economical, especially if you grow your own produce, and it’s fun to do with friends or family. Last summer my mom and I made blackberry jam (a hysterically messy, laughter infused process) that I am still giving as gifts.

Last fall, I used my canning equipment for autumnal flavors. I went to the farmers market then made pumpkin butter, applesauce, and pickled cauliflower using the jars from the polished off strawberry and fig jams I made this summer! Unfortunately my canning bath is at home in Seattle but I make small batches in my pint-sized New York apartment. You don’t always need to make an event out of it, sometimes it’s nice to just experiment a little, especially if you’re prone to stockpiling your cabinets with surplus but take your time getting to the bottom of a jar. I also like to make one big batch of jam or fruit butter and add different spices to different jars at the end. That way I get to see which flavor combinations I like the best without making a dozen batches.

Canning isn’t only about tradition anymore–it’s also about freedom of expression. Work with what’s in season with the help of local markets, reuse your jars, swap with friends, and get crazy. Don’t forget to read the safety book on safe home canning though as it’s crucial to do it properly– you don’t want your loved ones to get a gift that keeps on giving (in a bad way!).

CAA Contributor Kayla Harvey is in her senior year of undergraduate studies for photojournalism at Eugene Lang College, The New School for Liberal Arts in New York City. She is an avid baker and canner during her summers at home in Seattle and drags her concoctions back across the country to savor Northwest produce year-round. She is working on a photojournal on educating children about nutrition through community gardens and school programs.


Twitter Canning Chat: June 12, 2012

Our next Twitter Canning Chat will be tomorrow:

Tuesday, June 12th
6-7pm PST/9-10pm EST
Our twitter handle: @canvolution
Hashtag: #canningchat

Please join us!


How to Pickle Veggies Video with Marisa McClellan

One of our “Friends of the Canvolution,” Marisa McClellan of the wonderful website Food in Jars, has a quick video out about How to Pickle Veggies.  This video, by the folks at The Daily, shows the basic process for pickling veggies–the actual recipe for the video is on their site.

Also, Marissa will be in Seattle this Sunday doing a demonstration at the Book Larder to promote her new book, Food in Jars:Preserving in Small Batches Year Round.  If you’re around, check it out!

Editor note: yes, we are aware that the water in the processing part is a bit low. The water in your water bath canner should cover your jars by at least 1-2 inches.


To Can or Not to Can. That Is the Question.

Have you ever seen a super hot deal on produce and think “I should can that”? Me, too.

I’m what many seasoned canners call a “newbie”: meaning that I am new to canning. And last fall I purchased a shopping bag of persimmons. Then I did what all newbies should: scouted for a tested recipe from a reputable source.

The search produced few results–persimmons are, it turns out, not a popular fruit to can. Not a single hit from my favorite resources: the National Center for Home Preservation website (I love the search function), Ball Canning website, or my other canning books. To add insult to injury, the conflicting information online gave me little hope that I could successfully water bath the fruit without a pH meter to determine how much acid was needed to remain safe.

Turns out (pardon me if this is already common knowledge), there are many varieties of persimmons with a variety of characteristics that make some of them unappealing to can, including astringency. Fortunately, I had picked a non-astringent variety.

In the end, I scrapped my processing aspirations for the safest option. One that my Master Canner pals would be proud of: refrigerated persimmon pickles and refrigerated persimmon butter.

To my newbie delight, the un-processing adventure was a success. Refrigerated foods in cans might not last all year in your cupboard but are just as tasty. The butter was introduced at a dinner party (within a thumbprint cookie) and the refrigerator pickles made a debut for Thanksgiving. I’ve taken on a new title that no longer reflects my length of experience but my passion for safe preservation.

As a founding member of our collective, I’m here to tell you that us newbies are doing more than a riding trend and blogging about it. We know our limits. And hopefully, we are helping to creating a forum for conversation about safe preservation.

Quick Persimmon Refrigerator Pickles

Modified from The Budding Gourmet

10 ripe Fuyu non-astringent persimmons (approximately 3lbs)
3 tsp white mustard seeds
2 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp salt
9 cloves garlic, cracked
3 red chili peppers
3 cups white distilled vinegar
¼ cup sugar

  1. Wash persimmons and dry. Remove stems and core. Slice into wedges.
  2. Grind spices into a course powder (I like to use a dedicated coffee grinder for all of my spice concoctions but you can also use a mortar and pestle)
  3. Place persimmons into 3 sterilized pint jars. Add three garlic cloves and one red chili pepper per jar. Pour 1/3 of the spice mixture in each jar.
  4. Combine vinegar, sugar, and salt in a pan and bring to boil, stirring until dissolved.
  5. Pour hot vinegar into jar and remove all bubbles.
  6. Cover with lids and bands and store in refrigerator for one week.

Makes 3 Pints

Persimmon Butter (refrigerated)

Modified from Saving the Season


10 ripe Fuyu non-astringent persimmons (approximately 3lbs)
2 cups of water
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 ½ tsp pomegranate molasses
1 ½ tsp honey
1 tsp cinnamon (ground)
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup sugar
6 sprigs of thyme

  1. Wash persimmons and dry. Remove stems and core. Slice into ½” cubes.
  2. Place persimmons in pot with water and simmer 25-35 minutes until soft. Run through a food mill.
  3. Return puree to pot and add sugar, pomegranate molasses, honey, lemon juice, cinnamon and nutmeg. Bring to boil and then lower heat to simmer. While constantly stirring, reduce to consistency of a soft apple butter. (Note: I use a heat diffuser like this one when making butters.)
  4. When reduced by half, add leaves from 6 small sprigs of thyme.
  5. Place persimmon butter into 3 sterilized ½ pint jars. Remove bubbles. Cool on countertop and refrigerate. Eat within one week or freeze in snap-seal container.

CAA Founding Member Shannon Kelly is the founder of In Your Head trends research, creative development, and marketing consultancy. Since joining the collective in 2009, she has gone from rookie to intermediate canner—putting up a pantry full of pickles and preserves with friends. In addition, she runs the CAA Facebook page.  Shannon tweets about the intersection of food, fashion and culture as @trendscaping and loves to can in stylish shoes.


Canning Success: An Interview With Jessica Koslow of Sqirl

Intrigued by a Daily Candy article, I purchased two jars of Sqirl confections online and tweeted the find using the tag #canvolution. Four months later, I met owner Jessica Koslow IRL (in real life) at Forage in Los Angeles to connect over good food and a love for canning.

As a trends research, creative development and marketing consultant— and former merchandising manager for a national coffee brand–I’m always amazed at the willpower, endurance, and can-do spirit of small business owners like Jessica from Sqirl. It takes a lot of time (recipe testing, production, distribution) and resources (kitchen rental, artwork design, jar procurement) to turn a love for jams into a business. And she just got into the Master Food Preservers Program.

Her rare jelly combinations like Moro Blood Orange + Campari, and her commitment to produce from family-owned farms that practice sustainable and organic methods made her a great candidate for our first interview in a new series I’m calling “Canning Success.” Here’s how this pint-size baker and former Fox Interactive Media Producer, found her calling.

Shannon Kelly: What is your background?

Jessica Koslow:  In 2005 I moved from Georgetown to Atlanta after receiving my graduate degree in Media and Theory.  My degree was about as far away from food as one could get.  During that time, however, I considered (and still do consider) Waverly Root’s book, Food, as one of my favorites.  It is in this visual history and dictionary of the foods of the world that I started finding humor in the pairing of art and culinary pleasures–Edward Hicks’ painting of the animals entering Noah’s Ark comes to mind.

Arriving in Atlanta, I decided to take a year to explore this appreciation.  I wrote an email to Annie Quatrano and Cliff Harrison and a day later I found myself working in the pastry department at the James Beard Award-winning restaurant, Bacchanalia.  Yes, it was life changing.

It was my first experience working within the confines of the seasons— farmer’s, ranchers, and foragers were part of each day’s interaction.  I felt like I was back in school.  At their other restaurant, Abattoir, the animals would come in whole and emerged as charcuterie.  I got to work there as well, making all sorts of pickles and preserves (green tomato chutney!) to go along with the plates.  My mind became consumed by the craft…and here I am.

SK: Was canning part of your childhood or was it something that you found on your own?

JK: My grandparents on my father’s side owned a grocery store in Richmond Virginia and my grandfather also ran Richfood, a Virginia-based cooperative wholesaler with a line of canned goods sold to retailers.  They are basically a generic line of canned goods which are still available in many grocery stores today.  Since it was such a part of their life on a commercial level, only when I lived in the South (I’m originally from Southern California) did I start canning personally.

SK: What was the first item you ever canned?

JK: Dilly beans!

SK: The varieties of jam that you sell are quite unique.  For example, Santa Rosa + Flowering Thyme, or the Moro Blood Orange + Tonga Vanilla Bean Marmalade. What inspired you to create these combinations?

JK: I find that I’m a bit fixated on finite moments— to me they can actually tell a larger story about place, time and perhaps even conjure emotion…or memories. When I was ten, Fridays in the summer were just the best.  An ice cream truck circled the neighborhood and Friday was the one day I was allowed to order a treat. The Creamsicle was the go-to [confection], and it still is.  The Blood Orange + Vanilla Bean Marmalade is the Sqirl version of that childhood memory. Something like Santa Rosa Plum + Flowering Thyme is another snapshot memory— a time when the plums are perfectly ripe and thyme has flowered (when thyme flowers, it’s actually more fragrant,hinting that summer is in full stride — a mid-point — and that fall is not far behind).

SK: Do you personally hand-select all of the produce for your products or do you have pre-arranged farmer relationships?

JK: I do personally choose produce based on the location of the farm, the farmer, the process, and his or her produce.  Terroir is always a thought.  When I’m looking for Moro blood oranges, [for example] I’m also looking for a farm that has the best conditions for growing this variety because the flesh’s intensely red pigmentation indicates a growing region with large diurnal temperature fluctuation (hot days, cold nights).  Bill and Linda Zaiser’s farm, Rancho Del Sol, grows specialty citrus at the highest elevation around–in Jamul, California. Their Moros are blood red because the growing conditions there are [perfect].  It’s important to make these decisions at the produce level–and to pick them up at that point.

SK: What exactly is your definition of small-batch and how long does it take to produce?

JK: Small batch to me equates to what one of my jam pans can hold.  Each pan can turn out between 24 and 28 jars.  The preserves can take up to four days to produce.  The longest being the kumquats, as their rinds take several days to settle down.  The stone fruit can take up to three days–they go through a steep and a pre-cook (otherwise known as “plumping”) and a final cook.

SK: I noticed that you sell your products on your website and at select stores. Do you have wholesale representation or are you running the sales department too?

JK: I am a small operation (just me and a newly hired employee–hooray!) so I do not have wholesale representation.  Whether it’s online or in a store, I’ve been selective as to where Sqirl ends up.  It’s important for the right synergy to exist between store and product.  Sqirl was just picked up by Gilt Taste (you’ll see it soon).  Since Gilt Taste is an online arbiter of taste,  it’s just a reminder to me that I’m on the right path and that it’s ok to slowly work my way into the marketplace.

SK: What advice would you give anyone who wanted preserve professionally?

JK: Know that preserving at its finest, most detailed level is a concrete example of slow food.  It’s quite a process but that process is invaluable to the work.  So ask yourself: what does preserving mean to you?  And let that point of view come through in your craft.

SK: What is your biggest accomplishment so far with your business?

JK: The fact that Sqirl is real is an accomplishment— just having a tax ID number is amazing.  And, I just signed a lease on a kitchen in Silverlake, where Sqirl will become an education and community center dedicated to the craft of preservation.  I guess what I’m trying to get at is that it’s difficult for me to focus on one specific milestone.  The accomplishments are contingent upon the previous achievements, with the end goal being to literally preserve the craft of canning and to share it with others.

CAA Founding Member Shannon Kelly is a trend illustrator, cultural anthropologist, brand strategist, gastronomic devotee and social media enthusiast. She founded In Your Head consultancy to transform her knowledge of marketing, innovation and merchandising into strategies for retail, food & lifestyle industries. Her love of pickling and new media has earned her the title of marketing/tech guru for Canning Across America. Shannon tweets about the intersection of food, fashion and culture @trendscaping and always cans wearing stylish shoes.


Fermented Delicacies at Revel Restaurant

National Can it Forward Day has come and gone but that doesn’t mean the pickling action is over in the Pacific Northwest. In addition to working with Canning Across America I have the great privilege of working with amazing chefs and farmers at Seattle area markets and culinary events. Through this connection I’ve become involved with the Seattle’s Chef Collaborative chapter and therefore am afforded the opportunity to enjoy an amazing array of educational events offered up at area restaurants and farms.

Most recently I was invited to one of my favorite Seattle restaurants headed by Chef Rachel Yang, Revel, to partake in all things fermented. And while we didn’t eat everything you can ferment there was a pretty overwhelming array of preserved delicacies to try. Chef Yang and her co-conspirator and husband, Seif Chirchi have had a very healthy fermenting pantry going for years at their restaurant, Joule, in Wallingford and they favored us with an incredible dose of what they’ve been up to in that magic pantry.

Revel’s long chef’s counter was the perfect place for them to showcase an overwhelming pickled spread which featured:

Oysters with grapefruit and fennel
Cherries with Grand manier, cinnamon, orange, and star anise made into a rum cocktail
Marion berries dropped into sparkling wine
Beets with romanesco, coriander and lemon
Beef tongue with pepper and shallot (my personal favorite)
Baby carrots with cumin and chili
Nuoc cham cucumbers
Shrimp with corn and celery
Harissa pickled scapes
Pig’s feet and skin
Chowchow composed of corn, patty pan squash and turmeric

Baby turnip kimchi
Chioggia and golden beet water kimchi
Napa cabbage white kimchi
Cucumber and garlic chive kimchi
Fennel and apple kimchi

Apricot, mustard, shallot
Cherry, mustard, shallot

These pickled and preserved delicacies were served alongside 5 spice smoked duck breast, cured sardines and the largest rounds of cooked pork belly I’ve ever seen.

If reading about this spread makes you want to take a stab at fermenting, you might want to start with a favorite of mine Pat Tanumihardia’s classic cabbage kimchi recipe.

Happy Preserving!

CAA Contributor Jenise Da Silva is passionate about cooking, gardening and the “farm to school” movement. Jenise’s experience with canning started when she was a kid in the Midwest and she continues that tradition today. She has used her experience in community building, marketing & brand management to create many award-winning projects including FireFree which was recognized with top honors (the Golden Smokey Award) by the US Forest Service.  She authored the book Women and Money and launched a national facilitated discussion series (years before Suzie Orman penned a book under the same name).  Jenise is an avid supporter of community gardening and farmers markets and you can usually find her at Pike Place Market, in a PCC Cooks classroom, weeding in the Interbay P-Patch or at a farmers market in Seattle.


Confessions of a Canning Virgin

Honestly, if I had been this nervous about sex, I would still be a virgin. I can proudly say that I am a canning virgin no more. In contrast to other such firsts, this time I was very anxious before, but deeply satisfied later.

This inaugural journey into canning was not pretty. You might say the journey of a thousand tomatoes begins with a single slice. In my case, I was about… oh… maybe, THREE tomatoes in when it happened. That’s three tomatoes in — to the FIVE pounds of tomatoes my first canning recipe called for. When I sliced my finger, I sliced it well. A beautiful u-shaped cut that supplied copious blood. I contemplated a trip to the ER, weighing it against the loss of the produce and against the concept of a failed canning adventure.

I recalled the time a nurse told me that 20 minutes is the point at which the bleeding should stop and if it hasn’t by that time, you go get stitches. In that case, as I recall, it was more like 40 minutes and a roll and a half of paper towels…but this time, I had a mission. And, I had a bunch of fresh tomatoes from the farmers’ market.

So this, I tell myself, cannot be like that time. It just can’t. I’ve already got the twelve ears of corn, shucked, parboiled, and cut from the cobs. I’ve already got the other ingredients all “mised up”–diced, peeled, measured. I flush the finger with hydrogen peroxide, I press the wound closed, apply pressure, hold it over my head. I am grateful for clean, sharp knives. The cut doesn’t hurt as much as it worries. It must be tonight! Even ran out of cumin, but got some more.

Eyeing the now-so-much-more-enormous looking bowl of tomatoes, I slice. Carefully. And slowly. This is going to take a lot longer than I’d anticipated. The throbbing left middle finger complains as I make my way, gingerly, through the five pounds of tomatoes.

Who was it that recently advised me against starting a canning project after dinner? I insist upon ignoring perfectly good advice, as I have done all my life, and forge ahead. This is the girl who refused to consider the Iowa Writers’ Workshop simply because it was in a state other than NY or CA. Why start listening now?

Upon returning from a weekend with a small group of insanely fun, intensely talented, incredibly supportive women, I was inspired to try this home canning thing. So I began looking for my equipment. I began poring over books. I decided that my first solo attempt should come from Sherri Brooks Vinton’s excellent book, Put ‘em Up! This seemed only right as it was Sherri who walked us through her pickled spicy carrots (page 148) recipe. We all went home with a jar.

Canning Across America helped start the Canvolution, which helped to fireup a national interest in home canning. I looped in my girl Linsey Herman and she jumped on it. She gathered a group to to offer a canning, preservation and pickling seminar in Cambridge as part of Canning Across America. Nika Boyce  is one local expert who taught us that day. Alex Lewin  demonstrated and walked us through lacto-fermentation. I remind myself that I’ve sort of done this before.

Re-reading the how-to section, in Put ‘em Up!, I discover I’m supposed to have two inches (minimum) above the lids after they’ve been elevated by the lid rings from the bottom of the pot. Preferably three. I have just one inch.

The pot I planned to use (my big pasta pot) is not tall enough. I pull out the stock pot which is slightly taller. It will only hold four jars, but I’ll have a little more room for boiling water to cover the top of the jars.

Now, I have to figure out how to configure lid rings and a smaller jar to ensure the filled pints stay upright. My glasses begin steaming up. I time the veggies so that the Corn-Tomato Salsa will be hot when the jars are hot.

More questions: should I have seen those teensy air bubbles escaping the rings when I lower the filled jars into the water bath? How will it affect the seal if I only had one inch of bubbling water?

Since only one pot in the house is deep enough to hold the jars with an inch of water above, I have to process the second batch after first come out of same pot. I get the kettle going.

Rolling boil in this pot means water all over the cooktop. I didn’t hear “pings” from the first batch but the seals appear to be fine. When I take the second batch out of the water bath, they ping immediately. Suddenly, I’m so happy. I can almost forget about the throbbing finger. Almost.

I end in the wee hours of the morning, with eight pints of corn-tomato salsa, some leftover for the fridge, a ton of pride and determination to can more. Can a pressure canner be far off?

Tips for Canning Virgins:

Many advise picking something easy like jam to start out. We just don’t eat much jam.  I’m lucky to have friends that gift me jars now and then and that’s much-appreciated. I wanted something that we would really enjoy and use a lot. So either, pick something easy if you follow conventional wisdom. Or, if you don’t, pick something you will love, regardless of whether it’s easy or not.

1) Think through the prep and start at an appropriate hour.

2) Prepare your canning “mise en place”–i.e., get the tools you’ll need all clean and lined up. Prep as much of the raw materials ahead if you can. You don’t want jars to cool off while you begin chopping or peeling.

3) Clean sharp knife always make kitchen work easier and safer. Also makes cuts hurt less, heal faster.

4) Read through the recipe and canning steps several times. I learn best by doing, not reading. I can tell you my next canning experience was so less fraught. I did some beets. Only, I forgot to think through what would be the weight of the beets in the recipe without the greens. So, I ended up with one and a half jars of beets. The half jar went into the fridge.

5) Check the height of your jars and lid rings etc., before you get that water boiling.

You will enjoy this tremendous feeling of self-sufficiency when you have your finished jars lined up. Don’t fret, canning is like many things we do every day with hardly a thought about the dangers. Things like crossing the street or driving a car are just as hazardous if we don’t follow simple rules and precautions. So it is with canning. Forget the rules, you can grow harmful, even lethal bacteria in your preserved food. Follow the rules you will be fine.

Using Boiling Water Canners: Tips from The National Center for Home Food Preservation

CAA Contributor Jacqueline Church is an always-hungry, ever-curious freelance writer. Currently, she’s working on a book about chefs and the heritage breed pigs they love. She’s a topic editor at where she writes the gourmet food column and writes frequently about the intersection of sustainability and gourmet food. She has remodeled her fingers more times than she can count. You may find her at Jacqueline Church, on Facebook, and she’s @LDGourmet on Twitter.


It’s a Can-A-Rama!

Our preserving celebration launches today with our third annual Can-a-rama, a week of home canning parties and seasonal preserving nationwide. From August 14th to August 20th, we encourage you all to gather with your friends and family around the canning kettle.

Today in Seattle, we have more free and open-to-the-public demos at Pike Place Market. At Noon, join us for an Apricot-Raspberry Jam Demonstration by Rebecca Staffel, of Deluxe Foods, a Seattle artisanal preserves company, or at 2:00pm to learn how to can Pickled Jalapeno Peppers by renowned pickle expert Lucy Norris.

If you can not join us in Seattle to kick off our Can-A-Rama, Rebecca and Lucy have graciously shared their recipes.