Monday, August 30, 2010

Canning, canning, canning...

This week I've been doing some canning again and I'm sure in the next few weeks I'll be doing even more! Last Wednesday my neighbor and some other friends got together to can pickles. This is the first time I've ever done it and it's really not hard at all! I didn't realize how simple it really is and if you like them whole it's very little prep work too. We just made dill this time, but there are plenty of mixes for other varieties as well. For the half bushel of pickling cucumbers my neighbor spend about $10 and we got 15+ pint size or quart size jars! Compared to the grocery store prices, which can be quite expensive, it was a great bargain. We did leave some whole, sliced some into circles and then sliced some length wise for "stackables". It was a great learning experience and doing it with great company made it extra fun.

Then, over the weekend we went to a local organic farm that is just up the street from us, maybe 5 minutes away. We love going there and have made it a tradition every summer since our oldest has come along. The thing that makes this farm special and extra fun is that they have huge berry patches and let you pick your own. They grow raspberries and strawberries, so we usually take home some of each. They are delicious and being that they are organic, local and fresh makes me even happier about feeding them to my family. This weekend we went with the intention of getting a good amount so we could use the berries to make jam. Typically berries are always a little bit pricier produce item, so we paid about $17 for all that we picked. This is also my first year making berry jams too. We did a peach and cinnamon preserves two years ago which was really yummy, but never just berries. It really is not difficult at all and takes very little time compared to other canning recipes. This is one I would highly recommend for a beginner. It's not overwhelming, could be done alone, takes very little prep time and can be totally finished in about 1-1 1/2 hours. Our final result was 16 jars of jam, 7 raspberry and 9 strawberry. One of my favorite things about the jams we made is that they are sugar free too. The sweeteners in them are honey and agave nectar which have a lot less negative health effects then white sugar. AND the recipe called for 3/4 C of honey/agave compared to 3 C of sugar! Great perk, right?!?!

We haven't tasted any of our most recent canning goods because both the pickles and the jam take a couple weeks to really set and get their flavor. So, I"ll be sure to post about them when we've tasted them to let you know how we like them.

Within the next few weeks we'll be doing some of my favorite canning projects: salsa and marinara. They are great money saving options throughout the year too. I'm planning on getting my ingredients at a local farmer's market that lets you fill a gunnysack (large cloth bag) full of the produce you chose for
$10! So, I'll be loading mine up with all the ingredients I need for canning that we don't already have in our garden. I'm excited!

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