Gosh, I love this time of year! Amazing produce is in high abundance and local berries can be found around every corner. I feel so very lucky to have delicious food available year-round, but summer is such a satisfying time for the senses! When spring and summer arrive, I am reminded how much better in-season fruits and veggies taste! The berries I have been seeing lately are so beautiful. So rich in color and flavor, and they smell divine. If we can’t have fresh summer berries all year long, opening a homemade jar of preserves to enjoy on your morning toast is the next best thing!
Last year was my first year making jam and I am hooked! I dove in after being inspired by a friend, K, who preserves an entire pantry for the year. Hundreds of pounds of produce… I agree, she is amazing. On a much smaller scale, I learned to can with a good friend, S, who was also a jamming neophyte and we felt our way together. I highly recommend this route. If you want to try it, find a like-minded friend who is also curious and just go for it. It became a wonderful time for real adult conversation and each session we came away with a very satisfying product (a project with a beginning and an end – hallelujah!). Last year at this time I was pregnant and I am pretty sure this whole thing started because of a nesting urge and a wish to control something. Baby was due in late December, so I became a little manic about being “ready” for the holidays. Man, was I ready.
In my quest to become a preserving goddess, I found a few books to help me on my way. There are so many great books out there, these are just the ones I happened to pick up and can recommend to you:
Tart and Sweet, 101 Canning and Pickling Recipes for the Modern Kitchen, by Kelly Geary and Jessie Knadler: I literally read this book cover to cover before bed it was so interesting. I love the approachable way that they describe the chemistry involved in canning. It is part manual, part artisanal food appreciation. I would not recommend this be your only resource for recipes, but I really enjoyed it for its style and inspiration.
Canning For A New Generation, Bold Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry, by Liana Krissoff. This book is a bit more traditional, but still meant for the modern canner. I found the accompanying recipes for food dishes using the preserves helpful as well.
Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. This is a canning bible to some. Great resource to have on hand, but less fun than the others.
This week I’ve had a few jam sessions and I think I am up to about 30 lbs of berries (turned into freezer jam and small-batch canned jams)! Raspberry jam is my favorite and oh-so-summery – I am feeling particularly inspired by the golden raspberries pictured above. Aren’t they beautiful? I chose to follow a pretty standard recipe from Tart & Sweet and am very happy with the results.
If you are interested, this is the perfect time of year to give canning a try! I am happy to share any and all that I have learned and would like to pass on a few words of wisdom that were shared with me.
1) Only can the best produce you can find. There is no reason to go to a ton of work preserving the same stuff you can find year-round. Can in-season produce, as it is cheaper and of better quality than what you can find at other times.
2) Preserve things you like! We go through jam like it is going out of style in our house, so we make lots of berry jam. If you don’t eat chutney normally, don’t make jars and jars of chutney. They will sit and sit in your pantry taking up precious real estate. I’m not saying don’t experiment, that is part of the fun. Just keep the way you and your family eat in mind, as you try new things.