Canning is such a joyful experience. The canning pot on the stove, the pot with the lids and rims steaming and the jars in a pan with lots of soap and hot water to rinse! One can pick and choose the ingredients for a recipe or just throw things together and see what happens. I’ve been the “look at a recipe and change somewhat to suit my taste” kinda of a person. It has worked out well for me. The best ingredients and the most sterile jars and lids and pots make for good canning.
Since there are two of us in this household, I really like to can a few quarts, some pints, more half pints and 1/2 cups are perfect to give away. It just makes sense that I can use a little and give a little and the rest is used throughout the season.
Things I have canned this year: bread & butter pickles, garlic/dill pickles, cucumber relish, strawberry freezer jam, peach/blueberry/basil/rosemary freezer jam, apricot/basil freezer jam, peaches, apple chutney, drchelo’s Mother’s mango-apple chutney, poached apples and pears in gingered syrup.
Looking at this list tells me I want to can more food along with the condiments. I think soups and stews, maybe carrots and green beans could fill up the pantry with goodies to just pull out on a cold winter night or a harried day for a good lunch or dinner. (My take on tomato sauces: I like buying the 28 oz cans of whole tomatoes in bulk and using them fresh for sauces, tomato paste and using the tomatoes in various dishes. The canned whole tomatoes from Trader Joe’s and Muir Glenn are exceptional. I usually have at least five to ten cans in the pantry at one time.) Here’s my tomato paste: Just take a 28oz can of plum tomatos with juice and put it in a sauce pan over very low heat for awhile and smush the tomatoes with a potato masher and cooked low until it looked like tomato paste. Freeze in an ice cube tray and pop into a freezer bag and you will have 1 tablespoon of goodness at a time to drop in a dish!
Here are two really neat links to canning how to’s. The first one http://www.paulnoll.com/Oregon/Canning/index.html is a couple that has been canning forever and travels all over the world. The second one http://portlandpreserve.com/ is a modern guide to preserving and backyard economy. Here’s a link to the Ball Blue Book http://www.freshpreserving.com/pages/home/1.php .
If you really want to can, start with a water bath canner and kit. You can figure out how to improvise a quart water bath canner to accept pints and half pints. Getting into low acidic foods means a pressure canner. I got one at an antique/junk store and just had to replace the rubber seal. I see them going on ebay for $225 now. Look on craigslist also for canners and jars. They do sometimes come up.
I hope this helps someone out there to have food all year round. We all have to stick together, you know!