I bought a book on canning years ago. I liked the idea of gardening, growing, harvesting and preserving. Well, that book was about the extent of my efforts at canning until last week.
If you have read my blog for a while, you may have picked up on the fact that I love cherries. I rejoice when they first hit the stores in May and feel like there should be a moment of silence when they are no longer available in August. My family knows that if they see good cherries, buy them for Marian. I’ll even pay the outrageous $8.99/pound when they make a brief appearance around Christmas.
So, while cherries were plentiful, I decided to try canning some. Well, a lot.
In addition to the cherries, I also picked up tomatoes, herbs, lemons and a few other ingredients. I mean, if you’re going to can, you might as well can a lot, right? I also picked up a variety of canning jars at Ace Hardware. (Who knew they had canning equipment?)
I started with the cherries, so I could snack while I canned.
I always cut the pits out of cherries, but in hindsight, a pitter would’ve been a smart purchase!
I made two different recipes with the cherries – a cherry pie filling and cherry jam. It may be jelly or preserves, but I’m a little fuzzy on the exact difference. Let’s just call it a jam.
The pie filling was just 4 cups of cherries, 1/2 cup honey, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1/4 cup corn starch, and 1/8 teaspoon almond extract. I love that the recipe was so simple and didn’t have a ton of sugar.
I just stirred it together until the cherries were soft and all of the ingredients were combined.
I seriously just ate it with a spoon and it was heavenly. Definitely the best cherry pie filling I’ve ever had.
And it was so pretty. I love things that are yummy and photogenic.
A blogger’s gotta do what a blogger’s gotta do.
I washed all of the canning jars and heated them in a pot of simmering water before filling them. It’s important that everything is clean, so the contents of the jar won’t be contaminated by a dirty jar. Heating the jars reduces the risk of breakage when they are submerged in the canning bath.
I canned the jam in the same manner.
(I sealed the two full jars and we ate the one that was half-full right away.)
Speaking of the jam, the recipe I used called for five cups of sugar. FIVE! I just couldn’t add that much sugar, so I decided to add one cup to see how it worked. I figured it would be sweet enough, especially since I was using sweet cherries. It ended up being quite tasty!
(I’ve since learned that canning recipes shouldn’t be altered and you should always get updated recipes from a trusted source to make sure the canned food is properly preserved. While this jam tasted amazing fresh, it may not have had the right balance of ingredients. Lesson learned! There is some great info in the comments section on canning tips, safety, and great resources.)
And lastly, I made a tomato sauce.
Kriste peeled the tomatoes while I was working on the cherry jam and pie filling. We laughed about how she just never knows what she’s going to do from day to day. One day it’s painting furniture and another day it’s peeling tomatoes.
I strayed from the recipe we found online, in order to add more flavor and veggies. I added some sautéed zucchini, onions and garlic to the sauce, along with a bunch of herbs and some red wine.
The kitchen smelled amazing!
Once everything was cooked, it was time to get everything into the jars and then into the canner. As I said earlier, I washed and heated the jars and I also boiled the lids.
When it came time to put the jars in the canning bath, I was really nervous. I’m not a precise person and I was certain that leaving air bubbles or having too little or too much head space would mean the jars would explode. I actually asked Kriste to Goggle what would happen if there was an air bubble in a jar. She assured me the jars wouldn’t explode, but they just might not seal properly.
Jeff, who was hidden in his office working on a research paper during most of the canning, took some time to come out and poke fun at me. He started saying things like, “Hey, Kriste, can you Google if the jars will explode if I stand one foot away from the canning bath?”
As I was gently dropping jars into the canning bath with some tongs, Jeff asked me if I knew how dropping the jars in boiling water sealed them. “I don’t have a clue! That’s just what you’re supposed to do. I’m sure it has something to do with science.”
I’m so smart.
After the jars were in the bath for the proper time, I removed them with the tongs and set them out to cool. The lids had a little give to them, so I thought it was a failure, but as they cooled, the lids popped down and created a seal.
I did learn that adding a little vinegar to the canning bath prevents any build-up on the jars from minerals, etc. in the tap water. I didn’t add that to the first batch and there was a white powdery build-up on the jars. I added it to the second batch and the jars came out nice and clean.
We’ve been sampling everything and it’s all been so tasty. I look forward to the day we have a garden full of veggies that need to be canned and preserved.
In all of my spare time, of course!
Until that day, I’ll be eating through four jars of cherry pie filling with a spoon.
Since I’m a newbie, you can learn more about canning from the pros at Ace Hardware HERE.
As a little bonus, Ace Hardware is offering up a $150 gift card to one lucky reader. If you’d like to enter, simply leave a comment on this post! The giveaway closes September 6, 2016 at midnight PST. A winner will be announced and notified by September 7, 2016.
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Ace Hardware. They provided the supplies and some of the produce, as well as compensation, in exchange for this post. I was excited to try out canning and share it with my readers. All opinions shared are my own.