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Home Canners Savor Fresh Produce all Year

By American Farmland Trust (7/26/10)

  JULY 29, 2010 --

Interest in home canning-cooking food and preserving it in glass jars as your great-grandmother may have done-is on the rise, as consumers strive to find new ways to enjoy seasonal produce all year.

"People are becoming more in touch with their food again. They're cooking more, they're interested in higher-quality ingredients and also buying direct at farmers' markets," said Rebecca Courchesne, co-author of "The Art of Preserving," a new book from Williams-Sonoma.

"Canning is making a comeback because of the foodie revolution," said Courchesne. "People love to can because it's really satisfying. Everyone has favorite memories of canning or canned food."

Although jams, jellies and marmalades made with berries and other fruit may be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about canning, preserving corn, cucumbers and other vegetables without using sugar or pectin is also surging in popularity.

Getting started if you're new to canning is not difficult. And the startup cost is modest (about $20) if you already own a wide, flat pot and a bigger stock pot for boiling water.

Courchesne recommends that canning newbies start by making a small (six or seven half-pint jars) batch of jam from high-acid fruits such as cherries, peaches, apricots or nectarines. Minimal preparation of fruit is needed to make jam, plus most recipes are "forgiving." And a jam that doesn't set quite right may still taste delicious.

In addition, "There's very little danger of botulism or other issues related to food safety if something goes wrong when canning fruits of this type," Courchesne explained. You also do not have to add pectin or "tons of sugar" when canning high-acid fruits.

No matter what you're canning, using the freshest possible produce-picked that day if possible-yields optimum flavor.


Know Your Fruit Spreads

Conserve -- a combination of two or more fruits. Often includes dried fruits or nuts. Cooked with sugar and generally chunky.

Fruit butter -- dark, thick pureed fruit that was cooked slowly with a little added sugar.

Jam -- chopped, crushed or mashed fruit cooked with sugar (and sometimes added pectin).

Jelly -- jellied fruit juice with added sugar (and possibly pectin) but no fruit or peel. May be made with vegetables and herbs.

Marmalade -- chopped, pureed or sliced citrus peel from one or more fruits, cooked with sugar. Soft, cooked peel is suspended in jelly made from fruit juice.

Preserves -- whole cooked fruits/fruit pieces suspended in soft jelly or syrup. Spices, wine or spirits may be added. ("Preserves" is the common name used for all types of fruit spreads.)



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