Canning has become quite the buzzword these days — people are canning up a frenzy across the nation, and co-op groups are popping up all over the place. Raise your hand if you thought pickles and tomatoes were your only options. We were of the minimal canning school of thought until yesterday, when we delved into a canning book with more than 400 recipes... And oh, boy, are we going to put all of those pounds of summer squash to good use. Do you have mounds of summer berries that just can't get eaten up fast enough? Can 'em. What about peaches? Apricots? Zucchini? Beans?
All these fruits and veggies can be canned in one way or another. And here's the best part: once you get the process down, it's actually easy. We think the trick is to set aside fear and embrace this old-fashioned way of putting up food.
There are a few different ways to do it: you can preserve fruits or veggies in water, similar to buying canned foods at the store. You can make jams, jellies, conserves, preserves, chutneys, or marmalades — some recipes are fairly involved, but worth it. And you can make pickled, well, just about anything (we saw a recipe for pickled watermelon rinds!). Pickling always involves a vinegar-based brine, but recipes vary.
So, set aside a few hours this weekend and put up your summer bounty. Small batches are ok, too; don't think you have to can 15 jars of okra. Last year, we spent an hour early one Saturday morning canning just four pints, and it was absolutely worth it. This weekend, we're hoping to put up a few quarts of squash, zucchini, and banana peppers in a jardiniere-like pickle brine.
Here are a few resources to get you going:
• The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving $15.61 at Amazon.com
• Complete Guide to Home Canning and Preserving $9.95 at Amazon.com
• The Complete Book of Year-Round Small-Batch Preserving: Over 300 Delicious Recipes $14.96, Amazon.com
• National Center for Home Food Preservation
Step-by-step pickling directions at SustainableDiet
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