Balls to the wall. That saying has a different meaning for a lot of people. If you are an athlete, it probably means you are doing your best and pushing yourself. If you are like me, it means it is time to start canning!!!
Every summer around Labor Day, I start pulling my Ball jars out of the basement and start lining them up on the kitchen table. I count the jars and estimate how much product I’m going to need to fill all these beauties. (My new favorites are the Spring Green Heritage jars. They came out this year to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the “perfection” of Ball Mason Jars. I absolutely love the color and vintage vibe.)
There are a lot of decisions to be made before you even get started believe it or not. You need to locate fresh produce, find your recipes, decide how much of each recipe you want to make and most importantly how many jars you are willing to share! (FYI…if you don’t can but get jars of pickles from your friends each year. RETURN THE JARS!! They are like gold to canners!)
The first part of the decision making is what fresh produce you can find. Are you shopping in your backyard, a farmer’s market or your neighbor’s backyard when they aren’t looking? (I discourage stealing from your neighbors. It isn’t nice.)
The key is to use good fresh produce that is at the peak of the season. Those cucumbers that have been in your crisper for the last month probably aren’t your best choice. But if you are at your local farmer’s market and there is bushel of peaches…BUY IT!!!
The next thing is the recipe. I can’t emphasize more that canning recipes are serious business. If you are going to try to make your own concoction, I would recommend following these guidelines for preparation. (I’m not even going to try to cover the dos and don’ts of canning. That is a subject you need to read a lot about OR take a class at somewhere like The Chopping Block.)
I take the easy way out and just use tried and true recipes. My favorite recipes are on Ball’s Website, in the book Preservation Kitchen by Paul Virant and Hugh Acheson’s new Pick a Pickle book. (More like flashcards than a book but a pretty useful resource when you are on a canning bender.)
Most of the recipes will tell you how many pints/quarts it makes. I usually have a few extra jars ready just in case my yield is higher. If it is a product you KNOW you want to give as gifts, make sure you make extra!!! I made the Brandied Peach Butter from Pick a Pickle and I didn’t make nearly enough to share. (Because it smelled so good as it cooked, I kept eating it!!)
Since I have the green Ball jars now, I make sure that those are the ones that stay in MY house. It is a good way to insure yourself that you have a couple in your own pantry. This is the one time green does not mean go! Let it be your indicator to stop giving away your treasured home preserved food! (Nice people don’t mind giving it all away….I’m not that nice.)
This year my canning weekend included the Zesty Peach Barbeque Sauce from Ball, Peach Saffron Jam from Preservation Kitchen, The Classic Bread ‘n Butter Pickle from Pick a Pickle, Peach Salsa from the Bald Gourmet and, of course, my Cowboy Candy.
The last step I have to emphasize is MARK YOUR JARS!!! This year I not only marked it with the item name and date processed but I added on which cooking resource I used. It will be helpful when I try to make decision next year of which items I need to double up on etc.
After a weekend like this, I kind of feel like I had my Balls to the wall in every sense of the phrase! I have jars all over the place resting and I am exhausted!!
I do want to thank the folks at Ball for providing me with some of the new Heritage Spring green jars for this canning season. It is funny how something like having a colored jar can bring you so much joy during the process of processing. : )