I did want to chime in about a couple of other things...canning labels and canning mishaps.
Here is a shot of the labels I designed for this year. I have so far canned seven things, which puts me ahead of pace for this time last year, but there is still much to be done. The blackberries will be ready soon, then we have tomatoes, apples, and cranberries. I'll be canning well into Fall.
The other item I wanted to mention today is that you will have occasional mishaps.
If you buy the very large boiling water canner like I did, it comes with a rack that is best suited for quart jars.
I have yet to can anything in a quart jar. If you plan to can in pints and half pints, I recommend investing in a flat canner rack. The rack that comes with the pot is configured in such a way that it is hard to keep small jars upright. The other thing you can do is pack empty jars around the filled ones to help keep them upright. If your jars tip over, they are likely to get jar contents between the jar and the seal and that will cause you sealing problems and leakage. Also, eventually the rack that came with your pot will wear out and require replacement. Make sure if you are buying a replacement rack that it will fit snugly in your canner.
White Film On Jars
Until I started canning, I didn't know that I had hard water. My jars came out of their water bath with an unsightly white, chalky film. This is easily remedied by pouring a little white vinegar into the canning bath with each batch. Over time, it builds up on the rack as well.
While canning pickled peaches the other day, I broke a jar. At the end of the canning period, I was lifting out the jars from the water bath and the bottom of one of the jars came off in a single piece. I believe this to be extremely rare. If I had been making jam it would have been an unholy mess, but as it was, it was just brine and large peach pieces. Clean the jars, clean the canner, and move on. I did not take a photo of the broken jar. sorry.
Last week, I was making a batch of apricot jam and had to walk away from the stove for a minute. I had left my apricot jam on medium, but it scorched anyway. The problem was that I was using my beautiful Le Creuset dutch oven. I had seen some photos on other blogs of people using their Le Creuset to make jam, so it didn't really occur to me that it was a Very Bad Idea. Even on medium heat, the jam scorched. I was panicked in a cold sweat, bad way. This beautiful cookware was a gift from my husband and I RUINED IT. I didn't tell him about it and I was frantically trying to figure out how I could replace it without his ever knowing. I ended up calling the good people at Le Creuset and they walked me through a method for cleaning the pot and it was saved. Take it from me, save yourself some potential heartache and use only your stainless steel cookware for canning.
Beware the Giant Canner
The Giant canner takes up a LOT of room on your stovetop...if it gets too close to a plastic knob, for instance...
Pay attention at the Farmer's Market
The modern American supermarket has taught us all that we can get anything any time. If you are buying fresh, local, seasonal ingredients for your canning, you must pay attention. For example, I was happily buying strawberries and cherries each week, eating them out of hand. One week I noticed there weren't any more. The land had moved on and I had not canned. You cannot assume that the item you want will still be available next week. Ask the growers what you can get when and pay attention to season produce charts produced by many of the markets themselves. You don't want to find yourself at the other side of a season of something you meant to preserve.
I hope you will learn from my mistakes. I'm off for the weekend, but will try to share some recipes next week. My inventory thus far is as follows:
4 pints Sweet Pickled Cherries
6 pints Pickled Peaches
5 half pints Blueberry Butter
7 half pints Peach Melba Jam
3 pints Peach Butterscotch Jam
5 half pints Apricot Orange Butter
3 pints Strawberry Lime Jam
Canning questions? Ask me or call the professionals at the Ball Kerr Canning Hotline: 1-800-240-