Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Check Out My Cans!

You see them?!

 Gorgeous, I know...
So back in June, the Hubby bought me some gear to start canning for my birthday because I'm the hippest granny in town. I have dreams that my canning stockpile will someday look like this. I know. I'm.... special. My momma told me so, and then asked me if I'm Amish... 

I took the plunge after neurotically reading as much as I possibly could about canning - How do you do it? What tools do I need? What do I do if the jars don't seal properly? Oh no! What if they don't seal?! Then I'll have wasted pounds of fruit...maybe I'll wait... In addition to this fab book that the Hubby bought me, I also picked up this book at Borders on super clearance since they are going out of business. I figured the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving was a good investment since it's straight from the people that make the jars. And getting it for less than half the normal price was totally worth it!

The Canning for a New Generation book is my favorite. The Ball book is very technical and scientific...I like to know that stuff, but it is intimidating to me. If I didn't have my best friend to go to for Chemistry help in high school, I would've failed miserably...instead I think I eeked out a C+. I'm good at Math & English, not Science.

 Anyways, my new pretend bff, Liana Krissoff (author of Canning for a New Generation), shows you all the awesome little tricks & tips for canning. You don't need a fancy shmancy canning pot. Sweet! You can use a regular large stock pot and rig up a "rack" for the bottom of it to set your jars on like this:

 Genius! A little kitchen twine and a few rings from the lids of other jars you're not currently using. You can just buy the lids alone, too. Canning on a budget... Omg. Match. Made. In. Heaven.

So without boring you with all the gory how-to-can details, here's a glimpse of the process. If you're really interested in canning, for reals, pick up Liana's book and thank me later. It should be subtitled Canning for Dummies. It's now my canning bible.

 Depending on the recipe, you have to sterilize the jars, too. So here are my jars getting ready for their hot bubbly bath.

 The pot is a bubblin'!
 While the jars are heating, make the stuff that's going to go in them. I took Liana's Spiced Concord Grape Jam recipe as a base and tweaked it since I didn't have 4 lbs of Concord Grapes and I just like to tweak things. I'm a tweaker. Here's what I came up with:

Spiced Up Black Grape Jam

about 2.5 lbs of black grapes
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1.5 lemons

Put the grapes in a sauce pan. I used my handy dandy immersion blender to blend them up and then added the sugar, spices, and lemons. Bring the mixture to a boil for 15 minutes. Liana's nifty trick to see if it's the right consistency is to put a little plate in the freezer before you start cooking. After your mixture comes to a boil for the allotted time, put a dab of jam onto the chilled plate and return to the freezer for a minute. If it comes out somewhat firm, you're done. Again, Genius I tell ya! Remove the mixture from the heat and stir gently for a few seconds. 

If you buy any gadgets, definitely pick up these nifty little tongs. At $4, it's a good investment so you have a secure grip when pulling molten hot jars out of boiling water. 

Fill 'em up! With this particular jam, I am instructed to leave 1/4" of "head room" in the jar. Did you know that the ring of the rim are 1/4" apart? Makes measuring nice and easy.  

The lids and ring goes on "finger tight" and they go in the boiling water for 5 minutes to process. I had to switch pots because the water needs to be at least 1" over the jar... So I did a little switcheroo, which was terrifying because I didn't think about it until after I submerged the jars into the too short pot for a second. Now I was starting to panic: "What if they don't seal right because I put them in and took them out? or What if I disturbed the jam and it's ruined and tastes weird?" I'm telling you...I was a little neurotic about this process.  

After 5 minutes, they come out and have to sit undisturbed for 12 hours. You can see if they sealed properly after 1 hour by pressing the button on the top. If it pushes in, they didn't seal and you need to refrigerate immediately. It was a grueling 60 minutes...  

After 60 minutes, I pushed the tops of the jars and....

Drum Roll, Please.


I did a crazy dance and a squeal (because Will was napping...). I even called Lani, but she didn't answer. Womp Womp...

That's right folks. I canned and made it to the other side unscathed and totally successful!

So the next day, I spread some on Will's mini bagel for breakfast.
 And then he asked for more. :)

I tied on some little ribbon and tags so I know what it is and when I made it. It will be hard to tell soon, since I will have a giant stockpile of jams and preserves and pickled things in jars... haha. 

And in case you were wondering, here's what my jar of jam looks like in my fridge. I know...it's gorgeous and you're totally jealous.

Please tell me someone else is as excited about canning and jam as much as I am. Got any recipes that you love? Maybe you have an equally granny hobby like knitting or needlepoint? Do tell!

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