As a little girl, I can remember my grandmother spending countless hours doing things I thought I would never do. Quilting by hand, knitting, making homemade bread, and canning. Sure, I thoroughly enjoyed the fruits of her labor, but in my head I thought, “there is no way I will spend time doing this stuff when I’m an adult! I can buy jelly at the store!”
The truth of the matter is, I like canning.
I don’t know if it was the local food movement, my frustration over rising food prices, or my age (I find that my mid-30s has made me long for a simpler and less-hectic lifestyle), but I decided that this year, I would shop my farmer’s market, grow a few of my own vegetables, and can my own salsa, pasta sauce, and jams.
So off I went to Borders to find a book on canning. I totally judge a book by its cover, so I was looking for something bright, colorful, and geared toward today’s modern woman. And I found it in just a few minutes. It’s called Put ‘em Up!: A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook, from Drying and Freezing to Canning and Pickling.
I was smitten at the very first page. With recipes like Sweet Pepper Jam, Spiced Pear Vodka, Pickled Watermelon Rind, and a variety of fruit leathers, jams and jellies, it’s hard not to want to make every single thing in it. Right. Now.
The book is well organized – by main ingredient – so you’re not searching all over the place for recipes. Have tomatoes? Just flip to the tomato section and it will tell you all the things you can do with them.
Not only that, the book has wonderful illustrations that make canning far less intimidating that it seems.
My first project was strawberry jam. I went to the local field and picked a flat of berries to use. The jam took about an hour in total, from hulling to cutting to boiling and canning. The difference in taste between my homemade jam and the store bought kind? Unbelievable. After just that first experiment, I decided I would never go back to store bought for things I could make at home.
While it does take time to do, think of it as an investment in yourself and your family. Tell your partner that you’ll be in the kitchen for a few hours with hot pots and pans and the kids need to stay out. Heck, pop them a bowl of popcorn and let them have a movie night with dad. Take a good book, magazine, or your iPad into the kitchen with you and while you’re waiting for your concoction to boil or set, use the opportunity to read, play Angry Birds, or catch up with friends.
Overall, I give this book â€” and the entire canning process â€” a huge thumbs up. Â My kids love the fruit leathers, recent dinner party guests loved the Watermelon Aqua Fresca and the Picnic Relish, and my extended family will all be getting jars of preserves for the holidays (along with a few hand-knit goodies).
Give it a shot. You might just like it.
Photo Courtesy of Borders