Happy Canada Day!
It was hot and muggy earlier today, so hubs and I stayed home. I love summer because of the delicious local fruits and vegetables, and I want to be able to hang on to the wonderful flavours of the season so I decided to try my hand at canning.
On Sunday, we went to Downey’s Farm in Caledon to pick some strawberries. The farm is huge, and there was no shortage of ripe berries even though the crowds were large. We brought and filled two tubs of ripe strawberries.
I purchased a home canning starter kit from Canadian Tire for $49.99. The kit includes a 21 quart canner, rack, jar lifter, funnel, lid lifter, 4-pack of 236 mL jars, pectin, recipe booklet, and a DVD. I had also purchased Pomona’s Universal Pectin from William Sonoma. I had read some good things about this low/no-sugar pectin on several forums, and it just so happened that this pectin was on sale! The canning pot is massive!
For my first batch, I followed the video tutorial on Pomona’s website for their low-sugar strawberry jam. I started off by making the calcium water and then I washed, hulled, and sliced 8 cups of whole berries.
Using my potato masher, I mashed the strawberries and added 2 tsp of the calcium water. I used 1/2 cup white sugar and 1/2 cup creamed honey, mixing in 2 tsp of the pectin. This was an awkward mixture because of the honey. Perhaps liquid honey would be easier to work with, but I wasn’t worried. I figured it would melt anyway.
The strawberry mash mixture is then brought to a rolling boil, and the sugar mixture is added. You need to continuously stir this mixture to prevent burning. This mixture should continue at a rolling boil for 1-2 minutes.
Before all of this, I had filled my canner with water and had brought it up to boil and set my jars inside. This is part of the sterilization process, and to ensure that when you ladle your jam into the jars, the jars won’t crack. You should also bring a small pot of water to a boil and drop in your lids. It is important to note that the metal lids are NOT reusable for canning because you may end up with a false seal. This is not the time to cheap out. You certainly do not want to spend time making delicious preserves and end up getting sick because of improper storage.
Once your strawberry mixture has boiled for 1-2 minutes (I inadvertently boiled my mixture for 10 minutes), take a small amount and place it on a small dish and put it in the fridge. You want to ensure that your jam has set properly. This only takes a minute. Remove your jars from the canner and start ladling in the mixture, using a funnel to prevent mess. You want to fill to 1/4 of an inch from the top of the jar. Taking a paper towel, wipe the rim of the jars to remove any food particles, which will cause a false seal. Take your lids from the small pot of hot water, and centre it. Twist the cap until it is finger tight. You don’t want to twist it too tight because you want the steam to be able to escape.
Once your jars are filled, place them all back into the canner for a water bath. The jars mush be fully submerged. Bring the water back up to a boil, and let it boil for 10 minutes. Heat processing is the safest way to preserve foods as it creates a vacuum seal. High acid foods have a pH of 4.6 or less and contain enough acid so that the Clostridium botulinum spores can not grow and produce their deadly toxin. High acidic foods (fruits and properly pickled vegetables) can be safely canned using the boiling water bath method. Certain foods like, tomatoes and figs, that have a pH value close to 4.6 need to have acid added to them in order to use the water bath method. This is accomplished by adding lemon juice of citric acid. The other method of canning is through pressure canning, which is used for low-acid foods.
Once your filled jars have boiled for 10 minutes, take them out and set them on a heat-safe surface. One-by-one, you will hear the ‘pop’ from the lids. After 12-24 hours, remove the jar rings and ensure the lids are sealed properly.
At this point, I wipe away any residual stickiness, and I leave the rings off. Apparently storing without the rings prevents the rings from rusting. I ended up with 3.5 jars of jam.
Since I still had more berries, I decided to make a second batch, but this time with balsamic vinegar and black pepper. Also with this batch, I decreased the amount of sugar to 1/2 cup instead of 1 cup. I also started a batch of strawberry preserves, but it is a two-step process, so I will have to finish the preserve project tomorrow.
Canning is something I have been interested in, but it seemed daunting. Jam making is actually not difficult at all, but it does require a little bit of patience. I had my tunes going, so all the washing and hulling was quite relaxing. The end product makes it completely worth it.