Day 72–Learning to Can-Can

Preserved food in Mason jars

When I was in my mid-twenties, and had vast stretches of free time, I learned to make apple butter. I liked it, but that’s about as far into canning as I ventured. I think a trip to the mountains of North Carolina spurred that experiment. Faced with an abundance of apples that were brought back as tasty souvenirs, I decided to do something constructive with them. Along the way, I stopped canning apple butter and moved on to other things.

At the Dig In! conference last weekend, Ellie and I took a class on home canning and I was reminded of how satisfying it was to can my own creations. Now we are inspired to make the most of our spring strawberries and summer tomatoes and–the most fun part–we will be doing it together as a mother/daughter project. Hopefully this will help us make the most of our local produce and eliminate our need to purchase preserves (although the preserves we currently purchase are all locally made).

According to our instructor, beginning canners should heed a few rules:

  • Cook from well-tested recipes to start
  • Use real canning jars (not other recycled jars from home)
  • Buy canning tongs–do not remove hot jars with your hands (from the chuckles around the room, this is apparently more common than I would have thought)
  • Use the hot water bath method, not the inverted jar method of sealing jars as it is more reliable and consistent
  • Make your own pectin or cook the old-fashioned way (cook your food longer) so that you don’t need it. Commercial pectin has very suspicious origins that involve slaughterhouse by-products.

The first two points were very useful, the third and fourth had never occurred to me and the fifth was just gross.

I also learned that, at least in NC, food stamp (EBT) recipients can use their grocery funds to purchase vegetable or fruit plants. I had no idea! There is a movement afoot to get this information out to folks so they will have the opportunity to have, for example, tomatoes all summer for the same price as a few tomatoes. And if folks can preserve their food, that extends the quality and availability of local, sustainable foods for people in food desert areas.

Do any of you can your own produce? What works well for you? We won’t have any strawberries to start with until next month, so in the meantime we will be reading up on the process and on interesting recipes!


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  1. This past year I canned apple pie filling with great success! It has been nice whipping up an apple crumble with such ease. I also gave some away as gifts. Made jam without pectin too! My next attempt will be homemade chicken broth.

    Canning will be a great mother/daughter project! Anxious to see your creations!

  2. Hi – that’s wonderful that you are getting into canning and enjoying it. I just wanted to clear up one thing in your post about pectin. I can’t speak for all pectin, but I do know that Pomona’s Universal Pectin has no suspicious origins and no slaughterhouse by-products. It is 100% pure citrus pectin (most pectin is made from either citrus or apple), no sugar, no preservatives, no additives of any kind. It is manufactured in the EU and meets very high standards of purity. One of the benefits of Pomona’s is that it jells in the presence of calcium (included in the box with the pectin), so well-jelled jam and jelly can be made with low amounts of any sweetener and a very short cooking time, preserving vitamins and minerals and rich, full fruit flavor. You might consider giving it a try or visiting the website: to learn more. In the interests of full disclosure, I am a partner in Workstead Industries, which brings you Pomona’s.

  3. tuckarella

     /  March 13, 2012

    I love to can! I can obsessively from the first harvest through the last of fall crops. My pantry is now a “cantry” and there’s really only so much jam and so many pickles (or relish, or chutney, or sauce, or fruit butter, etc.) a family of three can consume. The Ball Blue Book is a great place to start, but there are a lot of great recipes out there so have fun, and if you need a recipe for anything in particular, just ask — I’ve probably made it at some point! However I’m still searching for the perfect pickled beet…

    • Thanks!! The Ball book was recommended in our class as well as “Put ‘Em Up”. I will def put out a call for help once I have something to can!

      Sent from my iPhone

  4. I really, really want to learn how to can my own food. I am so glad I came across your blog. It’s exploring time! Thank you so much for sharing your canning adventures, I will be giving this a try!

    • Thanks, Patti! The class I took mentioned a few books to try. One is the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving and the other is Put ‘Em Up. Both apparently have good, tested recipes. Let me know how it goes!!


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