I remember helping my great aunt make apple jelly and how delicious it tasted. I also remember that it seemed very complicated at the time. Maybe it was just looking at it from a young child’s perspective or maybe it actually was harder, but I was pleasantly surprised when my children and I decided to pick strawberries and make jam.  It was simple – really!

Once the domain of grandmothers and prairie and homestead women, canning is making a huge comeback in popularity. As people are returning to cooking with fresh, seasonal ingredients, the sales of home canning products has increased almost 35 percent.  You can find canning supplies everywhere now, including the grocery store, Walmart and even Bed, Bath and Beyond.

With the end of summer approaching you may want to consider canning some of summer’s delicious bounty, like plump berries, sun kissed tomatoes, and prolific zucchini. If you have a garden or access to a friend’s garden, or have a surplus of fruits and vegetables, then it’s time to get canning.

No garden, no worries. Get a big basket and find a local ‘pick your own’ farm and start picking. You can make a fun day out of it. Enjoy the fresh air and pick your own berries, apples, or vegetables. Then start canning!  Here’s how to do it.

What to Can?

If you have your own garden and have an abundance of a certain crop, such as tomatoes or zucchini or corn, then you can start canning those.  If you’re buying fresh produce for canning purposes, notice what’s in season. Chances are whatever is plentiful and in season, is also affordable. When peaches or apples are piled high on farmers’ market tables, you’re likely to get a good deal.

How to Can

Basically, there are two ways to can and both work essentially the same way. You can boil water or use a pressure cooker. We opted for the boiling water method since (1) we don’t own a pressure cooker, (2) it seemed easier and it was our first time and (3) instructions said it was a good choice for acidic foods, like fruit jams and jellies, salsas, tomatoes, and vegetables.

In both methods, the preparation is similar:

  1. prepare the fruit/vegetable according to the recipe
  2. fill the jars
  3. top the jars with special lids that allow steam to escape
  4. heat the jars
  5. let jars cool
  6. test the seal to make sure its airtight

Properly prepared jars can last for up to a year.

There are plenty of recipes to choose from in books and on the internet. Guaranteed, you won’t be the only one enjoying the fruits of your labor. We gave away jars of homemade strawberry jam as gifts at the end of the school year. Everyone raved about them and appreciated a home-made gift. They also thought we were gourmet cooks.

Shhhh, it can be our little secret how incredibly easy they are to make.