Sunday, August 12, 2012

I Can Can!

If visions of french saloon girls doing high kicks in black stockings have entered your mind - 

Forgive me.  This is a farm life blog.  
I am not about to do the Cancan. Nor should anyone with the limited flexibility and balance that I experience.  

No, I mean, I can can. And so can you! 

Not I cancan.  

In fact, my sweet friend (and lucky for me, my sister-in-law) Sara came over on Friday to do some canning.   Neither of us had formerly done any canning.  But we decided it was for us.  I have an abundance of tomatoes and have always wanted to try my hand at making strawberry preserves.  Now, after having finished two rounds of canning, I am definitely a fan!  And I wanted to share the general process for those of you who also might be interested in partaking in this centuries-old practice.  

The general process is as follows - 
  • Clean/sterilize jars and lids
  • Prepare food to be canned
  • Fill jars and cover with lids
  • Process in boiling water bath
  • Cool and test lids

Here are the ingredients for the strawberry preserves (aka strawberry jam).  Get yourself some jars (we used Ball and Kerr) with lids, strawberries, fruit pectin (I used Sure-Jell), and sugar....LOTS of sugar.  Actually, copious amounts of sugar.  

Wash and rinse the jars thoroughly.  This recipe calls for processing jars in the boiling water bath for 10 minutes once filled, so there is no need to sterilize them ahead of time.  However, if you are using another recipe where the jars are not processed for 10 minutes or more, you will need to sterilize the jars and lids ahead of time.  You can do this by boiling them in water (water needs to be an inch above jar tops) for 10 minutes.  Regardless, once the jars and lids/bands are clean, throw the lids and bands in a pot of boiling water to keep them hot until you're ready to use them. 

Prep strawberries by washing and stemming them.  Crush berries one cup at a time, leaving bits of fruit intact.  I used a pastry blender instead of a potato masher - just personal preference.  I stole a few bites of the strawberries because they were just too good to pass up...but that isn't a required step.   

Unless you're in the Wood household. is.  
All for the sake of quality control, of course.

Meanwhile, get water simmering in a large pot (like the one below, right) so it's ready to go when the jars are filled.  
Just FYI - in order to use quart jars (we used them for other produce), you will need a very tall pot.  I borrowed this one from my aunt and uncle, because my regular stock pot wasn't tall enough to accommodate the jars plus the required 1" covering of water.  

Once berries are mashed and ready to go, throw them into a stockpot and stir in one box of pectin.  I also added 1/2 teaspoon of butter to minimize foaming.  I'm not quite sure it worked, but how could butter be wrong?? Really?!?  
Bring the fruit mixture to a full rolling boil - keep stirring, too!!  

While the fruit mixture is getting to the rolling boil, measure out all seven cups of sugar.  (In the Bible doesn't the number 7 represent completion or perfection?!?!...hmmm???).  

Once the fruit mixture is at a rolling boil, stir in the sugar quickly.  Here's what the fullness of goodness looked like...

Stir that puppy all up!!  And return to a full rolling boil.  
And here's where things get a bit tricky... Ready?!?!

Once at a full rolling boil, boil for exactly one minute...that's uno minuto.  (How to know when you've entered the realm of "rolling boil" and then to calculate exactly one minute...I'm not sure.  Just do your best.  That's what Mom always said!)

Once the minute is up, remove from the heat and skim off any foam.  (Again, this was a little difficult to do because I had more foam than I anticipated, since I had added the butter to reduce it...but you get the idea).

Now to filling the jars.  Fill your jars (I used a variety of pint jars) up to within 1/8 inch of the top (for those of you who may one day be serious canners - this is called the "head space").  

Wipe the jar rims and threads.  You can see Sara doing that to her tomatoes here...

Here the jam jars are without their lids...

Pull your lids and bands from the hot water and apply them to the jars, screwing the lids on tightly.  

Then lower them into the large stockpot of boiling water you have ready.   Here's sweet Sara - they're ready to go! Make sure the lids are covered with 1-2 inches of water.  

Now they stay in there for 10 minutes.  If your water isn't boiling when you put them in, start the time once the water is boiling.  Also, for higher elevations, the time needs to be adjusted.  

Pull out the jars and allow them to cool upright.  This may take quite some time.  

Once your jars are cooled, test their seals by pressing the middle of the lid.  If it springs back, then it didn't seal.  While disappointing, it's not a complete loss.  You can refrigerate the jar and use it right away.  This happened to me.  My oldest jar (one I believe my grandmother used) that is tinted blue didn't seal completely.  I think it's because the rim or threads of the jar weren't completely clean before I placed the lids on.  Oh well...I'm eager to try the jam anyway!
Who knew canning is so much fun!?!?  Do it with a friend and the pleasure is doubled!  

Ryan and the chickens came to offer encouragement...

And here are the fruits (pun intended) of our labor...

Now go can.  Because you can can, too! 

Sure-Jell Cooked Strawberry Jam Recipe

5 cups crushed strawberries (this was about 3 1/2 lbs for me)
7 cups sugar
1 box Sure-Jell Fruit Pectin
1/2 tsp. butter *optional*

Helpful canning websites: - the Ball website for preserving with good recipes! - National Center for Home Food Preservation


Valerie said...

I've been canning too this year for the first time! Wish I had a friend to can with. It would be so much more fun! Today I canned garlic-basil tomato sauce. The only jam I've ever made is freezer jam which I highly recommend. No cooking necessary and you can use less sugar.

Keeping Calm to Carry On said...

I tried to comment last night, but I guess it didn't show up. You have truly embraced farm lift & I am so glad you love it!!!