As you already know, I like to cook and bake a lot. It’s one of my most favorite things to do with my free time. But did you know that last summer I added canning to my kitchen repertoire?
And when I say added, I really mean that I became obsessed with canning last summer. Prior to last June, I’d only made a couple of batches of jam with fruit I’d picked. Then last summer, I was hit with an urge to can fruits and vegetables ALL the time.
I made all sorts of jams, sauces, relishes, pickles and more. The vegetables in my garden were canned, as were any good fruits and veggies I found at the farmer’s market and any berries I picked at local farms. I even dragged several pounds of cheap tomatillos back from Philadelphia last September just to make homemade salsa verde. I had to run to the store for more jars every weekend (and I feel like I spent a small fortune in doing so) and I spent many late nights standing over a boiling pot of liquid. By the end of the summer, I had canned well over 200 half pint jars of food. We ate lots of it ourselves but I think I gave just as much of it away to family and friends throughout the last year.
This summer is shaping up to be just as productive as last year. I started canning earlier this year, I have more canning cookbooks on hand than last year and I actually broke down and bought a legitimate canning pot as I was tired of my 12 quart Calphalon stock pot boiling over every time I canned anything. I’ve already got quite a stash of 2011 jams and relishes and the summer is barely half over.
I did learn a few lessons in the last year about what I do and don’t want to can. This summer is far more concentrated on an assortment of fruit jams. People like jam. No one will turn down a jar of jam if you try to give it to them. I also learned that I don’t like pickles that don’t crunch. This year I’m sticking to just refrigerator pickles and the pickled dilly beans shown here. Dilly beans still snap when you eat them. Unlike the soggy garlic dill pickles I canned last summer and eventually threw away last month.
If you like pickles, dilly beans would be a great first venture into canning. They’re zesty, spicy and crunchy. Perfect for eating straight out of the jar (I can do that as I’m the only person in my house who likes pickled things).
I used the recipe posted on Food in Jars, one of my very favorite food websites. If I’m looking for a canning recipe for a particular type of food, Food in Jars is always my first stop. This year alone, I’ve used the recipes on the site to make garlic dill pickles, blueberry butter, pickled jalapenos and these dilly beans. Food in Jars is written and maintained by Marisa McClellan and if you’re at all interested in learning to can, both Marisa and the site are great resources. Marisa’s hard at work on a Food in Jars cookbook that I can’t wait to get my hands on once it’s in print.
I’m not going to post the recipe here because you should visit Food in Jars yourself. I made no changes to Marisa’s recipe other than to cut back the quantity of cayenne pepper just a touch as I’m a little bit of a wuss about spicy food.
Now that I’ve introduced my little canning obsession, I’ll be back with more canning photos and recipes soon!