Inspired by my mother, summer’s bounty of fruits and vegetables, and Canning Across America, a blog devoted to canning, I decided that it was time for me to flex my preserving muscle!
It’s not so much the cooking that scared me as much as all of the canning supplies and details: fresh mason jars and lids, boiling water for enough time, cooking and stirring, canning, cleaning….I was a little nervous. However, having acquired the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving and reading every inch of the darn thing, I decided that it was time to jump in and do it. I decided to go for a small batch of apricot preserves. Something both sugary and acidic so I don’t have to worry about botulism or pressure cooking.
The recipe was fairly simple:
Combine 2 lbs of peeled, halved and pitted apricots with 4 cups of sugar and 1/2 cup lemon juice in a sauce pan and refrigerate for 4-5 hours. (I admit..I already cheated at this part….I had much less sugar in my house than anticipated…so I used all that I had and a bunch of honey. Who knows if it was anywhere near 4 cups…..)
When you’re all ready to cook and can, heat up your mason jars in a pot of water (a deep saucepan is a good thing to have here) until just simmering. Do the same in a small saucepan for the lids. The Blue Book makes a point here of not boiling the lids. Once they’re at simmering temperature (about 180 F), turn off the heat and keep the jars in there until you’re ready to can.
Meanwhile, bring the apricot mixture up to a boil, and then boil rapidly, stirring frequently so that the sugars don’t stick or burn. The mixture is ready when the preserves are almost at the gelling point — i.e., when you dip the spoon into the mixture, the juice drips off slowly, more in a sheet than as single drops.
Then, take your jars out one at a time, and fill them with jam, leaving 1/4 inch of space at the top. Wipe of the rim of the jar with a clean, damp cloth, get a lid out of its hot water bath, and place it on there, screwing the top so that it’s just finger tight. Then put the jar back in your deep saucepan. Once all the jam jars are ready, heat up your water again so that it’s at a steady boil. Once it’s at a boil, set a timer for 15 minutes and keep that water boiling. Once 15 min are up, turn off the heat, let it sit in the water and cool down for about 5 minutes, then take your cans out and set them out on the counter. You know they’re all good and preserved when the lids make a nice little pop!
Let me tell you, hearing the popping was one of the proudest moments of my life….I’m so excited to try out some other veggies that will make this winter ever so much tastier.
And so to make a long story very short: Canning sounds scary…but it’s actually kind of satisfying! And not as hard as it sounds! You’ll be glad you tried it. I promise.