I CAN do it : Learning how to preserve foods

I’ve been wanting to learn how to can food for at least a couple of years now. I’ve done the freezing thing with veggies, soups, casseroles and spaghetti sauce, but I feel like my options are limited with freezing and it’s time to branch out. Oh, what I would give for a jar of delicious strawberry jam, made fresh at home, which is where, of course, canning comes in.

Mason jarsAbout two years ago some of my friends organized a “learn how to can” get together. We made grape jelly and each got to take a jar of it home. (Yum!) It was fun, but I really didn’t pay that close attention to the whole canning process (sorry, Nicole and Julie), and thus haven’t attempted it on my own yet knowing I still need to learn more about it.

I’d actually hoped I might get a one-on-one canning tutorial from my mom during our vacation to MI, but the blueberry farm that we hoped to visit didn’t open until the day we flew back home. Bugger.

A few months ago I started saving Mason jars from our spaghetti sauce, as well as jars from jam and other foods determined that this would be the year I would start canning. I have accumulated a pretty good collection of jars, but I still haven’t canned a thing. However, all of that is going to change this weekend!

strawberries.jpgWhile the organic strawberries I have growing in my little garden are great, or so I’m led to believe (my kids gobble them up just as soon as I pick them), I only had four plants to start out with this year and they aren’t nearly prolific enough yet. So when my friend Melissa said she and her family were planning on going to Berry Patch Farms to pick organic strawberries this weekend and wanted to know if anyone wanted to join them, I was chomping at the bit. I had hoped to visit that farm earlier in the season, but then a bad hail storm apparently wiped out their early crop. So now the plans have been made. The kids, Jody and I will be picking a slew of strawberries and I’m bound and determined to make them into jam. Lots of jam. (Oh, and they have raspberries and peaches too. Whee!)

Today or tomorrow I’m heading over to Ace Hardware where my canning goddess friend assures me they will have “everything I need” to get started. :) Then, in preparation, I’ll be reading my new Ball Blue Book and about making jam.

I’m so excited! I hope the strawberry patch is full and ready for us Saturday morning (oh, and that I can get myself and my family out of the house at a decent time – that will be the real trick!). I’ll be sure to report back how the experience goes.

Have you done any canning? What are your favorite things to can? Have any tips for a newbie like me?